May 07, 2005

An Energy Bill, You Say?

Sweet! Someone's come up with a plan for lowering oil prices that doesn't involve tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Good stuff from the Center for American Progress. In the short term, the solutions mentioned here—scrappage programs for low-income car-owners, "feebates" for fuel-efficient cars, letting single-occupancy hybrids drive in HOV lanes, hiking up standards for all tire replacements, etc.—all seem quite doable. In the long run we'll need more drastic measures, of course, but there are no end of ideas for that.

Incidentally, now seems like the time for Democrats to push hard for an alternative energy bill that's far, far more sensible than the pork-filled disaster Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney are trying to yank through Congress. And I say that not just because drivers are pissed about $3 per gallon. It's also interesting to note that when Bush talks about high oil prices these days, he almost always says that he wants Congress to deliver him "an energy bill." Not "a bill that does X, Y, and Z," but just any old energy bill. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it reminds me of the debate over No Child Left Behind, when Bush didn't much care about pushing through an education bill that did X, Y, or Z. He sort of knew he wanted "accountability." But all he really cared about was passing some sort of education bill, because he was the "education president" and that's what education presidents do.

And when it came time to get the thing written, Bush ended up backing many of the ideas Clinton had proposed in the late '90s. Conservatives in Congress, meanwhile, lost out on almost everything they wanted: they had to give up vouchers, and they got strong federal standards shoved down their throat, the very thing they had filibustered when Bush's father proposed it back in 1991. (Most of the "no" votes against NCLB came from Republicans.) But hey, the president didn't care; he was getting his education bill! And all told, it was a pretty good bill—horrendously implemented, but setting the stage for a more rational policy down the road. Anyway, seems like something similar could happen today with energy. Unless, of course, the bill's too far along and the best that the minority party can hope to do is strip out some of the worst provisions, like the MTBE waiver. Okay, let's face it, the latter's probably the case. Egad.
-- Brad Plumer 5:05 AM || ||