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This pig shouldn't fly

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:A slimmed-down energy bill heads to the Senate floor this week, and while it contains a lot less pork than its predecessor, this is still a pig of a bill that costs too much and does too little to give Americans a sound energy policy. The good news is that passage by both houses of Congress remains unlikely this year because of policy differences between the House and the Senate -- and because the bill is too environmentally unfriendly for liberals and too costly for conservatives.
The policy differences center on gifts to industry that were cut by the Senate but that remain dear to the hearts of key House members. The most important such gift would extend product liability protection to producers of gasoline additives such as MTBE, which poisoned groundwater, and ethanol, which does nothing for clean air and saves no energy.
Then there's the price tag. Last year's bill came in at a cool $31 billion. The thinner version that will go to the Senate floor is estimated at $14 billion. The Bush administration is hoping for something in the area of $8 billion. Given the state of the federal deficit and the spending habits of Congress and this administration, even the Senate's pared-down version is more than taxpayers can afford.
And there are other problems, including an overarching policy that places more emphasis on industry development than on conservation. Conservation, energy efficiency and renewable sources of power are an integral part of any real national policy. The new Senate bill does too little in all of those areas.