The politics of energy are far from depleted
Energy issues grabbed headlines in Washington and Colorado this week, thanks to both federal and private actions.
The Obama administration ramped up its regulation of the oil and gas industry with new rules announced on air emissions and fracking. Those rules won’t take effect until 2015.
In Congress, three House members from Colorado, including 3rd District Rep. Scott Tipton, proposed a series of measures to streamline approvals for drilling on federal lands. Tipton’s proposal would require the Secretary of Interior to develop a strategic plan every four years for the responsible development of all U.S. energy sources, from coal to solar.
The biggest news, however, was the announcement that TransCanada Corp. has submitted a new development plan to the state of Nebraska for the rerouting of its proposed Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills of western Nebraska.
That sets the stage for a renewed request to the U.S. State Department to approve the project, which was rejected earlier this year. And it guarantees that the controversial pipeline will continue to be an issue in the presidential campaign.
Missing from all this energy news, however, is any mention of conservation as an important component of our energy policy.
“Energy efficiency measures have been proven by many analyses to be the most cost-effective and fast-track way to address global climate change while reducing energy usage and more affordably expanding the use of renewable energy sources,” according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Energy efficiency is a more cost-effective way to attack climate change than a cap-and-trade system, it says.
The council has been arguing for changes in the tax code — as part of a larger tax reform effort — to encourage more energy conservation by businesses and individuals.
Adding any new tax breaks to the tax code right now is problematic, given the need to simplify the tax code. However, conservation tax deductions are certainly every bit as appropriate, and cost-effective, as tax breaks for things like electric cars and oil exploration.
Congress passed the original National Energy Conservation Policy Act back in 1978, during the Carter administration. It has been updated several times since then, both by acts of Congress and by executive orders from several presidents.
But it mostly applies to federal agencies — no small consumers of energy, to be sure. However, a larger program aimed at improving energy conservation throughout the private sector is needed.
So, while President Obama, Mitt Romney and members of Congress debate the merits of the Keystone XL Pipline, or new regulations related to hydraulic fracturing, or needed measures to streamline the leasing and permitting process for drilling on federal lands, they should also consider means to improve energy conservation in this country.