Obama and the 2005 Energy Bill

In my POST comparing Obama & McCain's environmental record, or in my POST comparing Hillary and Obama's environmental record, one thing stands out very clearly. In 2005, Obama voted to approve a very controversial Energy Bill that neither McCain or Hillary voted for.

This 2005 Energy Bill, you might remember, was noteworthy because it was written in a secretive manner during behind-the-scenes discussions between Dick Cheney and oil & gas industry lobbyists. Some argue that the lobbyists themselves wrote the final version of the Bill. Why do they argue this? Because the Bill contained billions in tax giveaways to the oil, gas, coal and ethanol industries.

Michael Abromowitz of the Washington Post described the creation of the bill this way..."From the beginning, it was clear that Cheney was running the show, chairing meetings of the task force -- comprised of about a dozen Cabinet officers and senior officials -- in his ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Much of the task force's work was done by a six-person staff, led by its executive director, Andrew Lundquist, a former aide to Republican Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski of Alaska. In 2000, Lundquist was the Bush campaign's energy expert; Bush nicknamed him "Light Bulb."

Today, Lundquist is a lobbyist and has represented some of the companies who appeared before the task force, such as BP, Duke Energy and the American Petroleum Institute. He did not return phone calls for this article."

Almost universally, all environmental organizations opposed the 2005 Energy Bill because of its corporate welfare payouts to the worst polluters in the country, who were making record profits. This is largely why almost all Democrats and some Republicans opposed the law.

The Abromowitz article goes on to say that although some environmental groups were brought into the process of writing the Energy Bill, they were not included until after the legislation had essentially been completed and were only being given an imaginary role in the process. The real contributors to the Bill were Exxon Mobile, Enron Corp., Duke Energy, Constellation Energy Group, the National Mining Association, the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America, the American Petroleum Institute, BP, etc.

After voting to approve the 2005 Energy Bill, Barack Obama put out a press release explaining his reasons for approving the law. The release details a number of economic benefits Illinois reaped from passage of the legislation. Most importantly, he points to expansion of clean coal and ethanol usage as a result of the 2005 Energy Bill.

Unfortunately, there are two things wrong with Obama's judgment on this Bill.
  • Although he is right that ethanol reduces demand for foreign oil, it is a dirty alternative to pure gasoline that actually has the dual impact of contributing more pesticides and fertilizers to water bodies from farming of the corn, while also reducing fuel efficiency in automobiles. Also, "Clean Coal" is a misleading industry term. There is no clean coal. All coal contributes massive amounts of carbon emissions into our atmosphere and requires destruction of entire mountain ecosystems for mining.
  • Whatever benefits gained by some of the programs created in the 2005 Energy Bill, like support for plug-in hybrids, were vastly outweighed by the cost of expanded oil drilling and coal power plant creation.
Bragging about the economic benefits of the bill is misleading. Many jobs could be created by investing in the manufacture of solar power cells and wind power plants. Germany has found a lot of success as the largest manufacturer of solar cells in the world, a title once bestowed upon the U.S. that was lost because of a lack of investment by government in legislation like the 2005 Energy Bill.

It was no secret at the time of the 2005 Energy Bill's creation just how shady its creation was. The best route to take would have been to stand-up and fight for a better bill that didn't amount to a free-for-all for the traditional energy industries. Unfortunately, the Energy Bill passed and probably caused significant damage to our environment.

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