- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2002

The Senate and the House of Representatives have each passed separate energy bills and now must reconcile the two in conference committee.
Producing a compromise bill and passing it is supposedly a high priority for Congress and the White House but it is hard to understand why. I am not alone in my lack of enthusiasm for this proposed legislation.
The shortcomings of these energy bills have made "strange bedfellows" of two leaders from disparate political viewpoints. Environmentalist Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and libertarian Ed Crane, president of the Cato Institute, wrote in a recent national commentary, "We both agree that the energy bill now in conference committee ought to be stopped."
The crux of their argument is that both the House and Senate bills amount to little more than pork barrels for energy industry supplicants.
The proposed legislation deserves to be set aside for an even more basic reason, however. In an effort to be "comprehensive," the bills are "incomprehensible." They are comprehensive in the sense that just about anything to do with energy policy is included. They are not comprehensive in the sense of having unity of purpose.
The Senate's "Energy Policy Act of 2002" (H.R. 4) is a massive tome with 27 separate "Titles" each with numerous sections. Title II dealing with electricity amends the Federal Power Act, the Public Utility Holding Company Act, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and then adds "Consumer Protections," and "Renewable Energy and Rural Construction Grants." There are 74 sections to this one title alone.
Oil and gas production, natural gas pipelines, fuels and vehicles, energy efficiency and assistance to low-income consumers, and national climate change policy are other major titles. The energy efficiency title has 50 sections. Is there anyone in America who believes Congress really knows what is in these bills? If so, perhaps he or she might also be interested in some Enron stock.
The potential for mischief lurks everywhere. For example, buried in Section 1001 of Title X is a "Sense of Congress on Climate Change." This "sense" is based in part on the thoroughly discredited "Climate Change Impacts on the United States" report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in October 2000.
The section calls for the United States to "demonstrate international leadership and responsibility " by: (1) "taking responsible action to ensure significant and meaningful reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from all sectors" and (2) entering "in international negotiations with the objective of securing United States participation in a future binding climate change Treaty."
The climate change section includes weasel words about the need for the treaty to protect the economic interests of the United States and to recognize shared international responsibility "including developing country participation." But it also virtually repudiates Senate Resolution 98, which said nearly the same thing regarding U.S. economic interests and developing country participation. In short, the sense of Congress on climate change makes little sense.
Given the plethora of pork and the opaque and dense nature of these bills, Americans would be best served if Congress would remove comprehensive energy policy from its list of things to accomplish this fall.
The new 108th Congress could then take up matters such as electricity industry deregulation, oil and gas production, energy efficiency, climate change, etc. in piecemeal fashion in comprehensible bites.

Kenneth W. Chilton is director of the Institute for Study of Economics and the Environment and associate professor of management at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.


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