There's much to be said about the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that President Bush just signed into law, and I'm not the one to say it all. Other people are better analysts, and have more time to do it. But I do have a few observations to share:
- Most of the news reports I've encountered talk of large subsidies for (or investments in, depending on point of view) fossil fuels, nuclear, renewables and efficiency. None that I've found yet break out the proportions -- although the Washington Post observes that, while the Act
...includes an estimated $85 billion worth of subsidies and tax breaks for most forms of energy
(Does no one actually know how many billions in subsidies we've just enacted?)
...[t]he bill's biggest winner was probably the nuclear industry, which received billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks covering almost every facet of operations.
NRDC is not subtle (http://www.nrdc.org/legislation/factsheets/050726_energy.pdf):
After five years, the U.S. Congress has crafted an energy bill that fails to reduce America's dependence on oil, fails to address the threat of global warming, fails to make any new investments in clean energy, and fails to help consumers at the gas pump.
They cite '22 harmful provisions' including:
1. Threatens drinking water by amending the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the unregulated underground injection of chemicals during oil and gas development and during geothermal energy development. [Section 322]
2. Grants the oil and gas industries an exemption for their construction activities from compliance with Clean Water Act provisions that require all types of construction activities to reduce polluted runoff from these sites. [Section 323]
3. Provides billions of dollars in subsidies to the nuclear industry, including $2 billion risk insurance program for up to six new reactors that was not included in either the House or Senate passed energy bills. [Nuclear title; risk insurance was added as an amendment in conference]
(Dontcha just love how partisans of unfettered free market and smaller government provide massive subsidies to insulate entire industries from market forces, and do it without careful deliberation or public scrutiny.)
When George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 today, what may be the most important part of the bill received scant attention. Neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post mentioned it; in fact, it's noted by very few of the Google News sources talking about the Energy Policy Act. Yet it's this section of the Act, far more than subsidies for oil exploration or a few bones tossed to renewables, will likely have by far the greatest impact on the daily lives of Americans for years to come.
Today, PUHCA was repealed.
PUHCA -- the Public Utilities Holding Company Act -- was a part of the New Deal legislation, passed in 1935 in response to corruption and scandals in the energy companies of the time. PUHCA was meant to protect consumers against business dealings that could threaten the reliability of the energy utilities. As of today, some 70 years after PUHCA was passed, those protections are gone.
- My favorite quote of the day came from Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, who observed in an NPR report that this bill makes its largest commitments to the technologies that powered the last industrial revolution, instead of the technologies that will power the next industrial revolution.
Which may just about sum it up.