The following article originally was printed in the November-December 2005 issue of NewsNotes. It was written by Sr. Mary Ann Smith, MM, a member of the MOGC’s Integrity of Creation advisory committee.
On August 8, 2005, after four years of debate, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Environmental advocates oppose this bill for several reasons: 1) it fails to address global warming, 2) it fails to reduce home heating and gasoline prices, and 3) it fails to promote clean renewable energy. The bill is another example of this administration’s failure to recognize both an opportunity for global leadership and its responsibility to protect the environment.
The 2005 legislation does virtually nothing to achieve the goals of energy conservation and the reduction of carbon-based fuels. Instead, it allows for drilling in the Arctic Refuge, which does nothing to meet immediate needs. No oil would be produced there for at least 10 years but the refuge and the lifestyle of the indigenous people will be devastated.
In addition, the 2005 energy bill subsidizes new nuclear plants and fossil fuels through generous tax incentives and credits. For example, $1.3 billion dollars is divided between integrated gasification projects ($800 billion) and advanced coal-based generation technologies ($500 billion). By contrast, renewable energy development receives $10 million over five years (2006-2010).
Funding for the Presidential Commission on North American Energy Freedom for two years is $10 million. One of the key provisions endorsed by the American Gas Association, the Commission will report within 12 months to Congress on how to establish a coordinated and comprehensive policy for North American energy self-sufficiency by 2025.
Access to and control of energy resources are key indicators of current energy policy driving both the direction of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and a rash of post-Hurricane Katrina and Rita bills in the House and Senate. Among the weakened bills are the Endangered Species Act (passed by the House on Sept. 29) and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Members of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community on Energy and Ecology Working Group (WISCEEWG), of which the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns is a member, opposed the weakened Endangered Species bill and the budget reconciliation, voted on in November 2005. This spending bill is likely to run as high as $100 billion, and may include waivers to environmental laws and regulations included in S.1711, the Community Economic Expertise Enhancement Act of 2003, a bill which would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily suspend environmental laws when responding to damage from Hurricane Katrina. (source: NCCC Capsules, Eco-Justice News and Views, October 2005)
HR 889, the Coast Guard and Maritime Act of 2005, passed by the House on September 14, inserts an additional hurdle into the process of approving offshore wind energy projects by requiring the head of the Coast Guard to submit a written opinion as to whether offshore wind projects would affect ship traffic.
According to Margie Burns in the Washington Spectator (October 15, 2005), “To the extent that the Bush White House, from its first days, believed there were any security concerns to focus on, they were mainly voiced as a need for ‘energy security’. ... [A]dministration officials, together with their industry friends, pushed for more drilling on federal land in the spring of 2001, saying we should not put our national energy security in the hands of foreign nations. That argument was not used to deter U.S. oil companies like Condoleezza Rice’s former company, Chevron, or the Saudi or Kuwaiti royal families, or with Saddam Hussein. In their eagerness to establish ‘energy security’ effectively by taking over another country’s resources, they established a track record of official distortions unparalleled since the Vietnam era.”