As Senate Democrats revealed their previously-announced completely pared-down energy bill yesterday, President Obama tried to calm the public by saying this was just the first step in a long process. The new bill does outline a number of provisions relating to the offshore drilling industry, including lifting the liability cap for oil spills, denying drilling rights to any company that has 10 or more deaths in the last 7 years on offshore or land based wells (right now BP is the only one), and it supports the President’s plan to create a new governmental agency to oversee the now-stiffer regulations for the drilling industry. As we mentioned earlier this week, it also provides incentives for natural gas vehicles, and to our pleasant surprise better incentives for electric vehicles as well.
The president said that the watered-down Congressional bills are a step in the right direction, “but I want to emphasize it’s only the first step. And I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation, because if we’ve learned anything from the tragedy in the gulf, it’s that our current energy policy is unsustainable.” He went on to note that we don’t have time to wait before we change our energy policies, though he knows full well that these bills will make us do exactly that, wait — they don’t include any regulations on emissions that contribute to climate change. We’ll be waiting at least until the mid-term elections pass and Congress feels it’s safe again to enact tough legislation.
For now the legislation also enacts tougher energy-efficiency standards for homes across the nation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “our plan will lower energy costs for homeowners and create at least 150,000 jobs by investing $5 billion in Home Star, a bipartisan energy efficiency program . . . Our plan will lessen our dependence on oil by promoting the manufacturing and deployment of clean vehicles that use natural gas and electricity.” As we noted earlier in the week, natural gas is a far cry from a green option and we were hoping that Congress would step to the plate on this bill. It looks like they’ve got the chutzpa to only take one tiny baby step forward, perhaps it’s up to us to do the rest.