Sunday, June 28, 2009

There's good news and bad news in House energy bill

U.S. President Barack Obama applauded Sunday the passage of an historic energy bill by the House of Representatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and moving the United States away from oil dependence, according to the New York Times. The bill is historic because it would, if passed by the Senate and signed by the president, begin turning the United States from being one of the world's largest emitters of the gasses blamed for global warming and from its profligate use of fossil fuels. The proposal includes a cap-and-trade program to encourage emissions-reduction and support for solar energy and wind power, the Times said. "I think it's fair to say that over the first six month, we've seen more progress on shifting us away from dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels than at any time in several decades," Obama told a group of reporters in the Oval Office, citing his administration's raising of automobile mileage standards and including support for energy research and home weatherization in the economic stimulus bill. But Obama took issue with one provision in the bill passed bythe House that could impose tariffs on countries that refuse to adopt limits on greenhouse gas emissions. "At a time when the economy worldwide is still in deep recession and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there," Obama said. Okay, the president still sees the big picture on the economy. The best way to rein in the uncivilized regimes out there is by getting them engaged in the world economy -- there's enough money to be made out there for everyone, assuming the recession ends. Look at how it has been working with China. Instead of remaining a belligerent enemy, China has greatly benefitted from engagement and is working with the United States and the West on many issues. It's hard to remember the last time Beijing railed against U.S. "hegemony" -- the name the old Chinese Communists had for Washington's use of economic influence. And it's certainly a lot better than worldwide saber-rattling with nuclear arms, like we're seeing on a smaller scale with North Korea and Iran. But will Obama veto the bill if the Senate does not remove the tariff provision before it gets to him? He doesn't seem to have any choice, and is most likely working behind the scenes to make sure it doesn't come to that. Of course, it would have been nice if he had spoken equally eloquently about removing provisions from the bill that offer additional support for nuclear power and so-called "clean coal" technology. Nuclear power is simply too dangerous to depend on, and burning coal on a larger scale has catastrophic environmental consequences. It's far better, as Obama did say, to put the most energy into safe, renewable energy resources.

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