August 2, 2010
Poison Pill: The New Senate Energy BillBy Brian Sussman
The latest Senate energy bill, quietly unveiled last week, looks like sweet compromise on radical measures like cap and trade, but buried within is a bitter poison pill that will could be swallowed in a vote that may come this week.
Unlike the 1,200-page House of Representatives energy bill, which passed last year, this scaled-down proposal does not call for an 83-percent reduction in greenhouse gases (or any reduction in greenhouse gases) and contains no mention of a cap-and-trade scheme. Also contrary to the House bill, this one does not provide a family of four earning up to $55,000 with a monthly stipend -- deposited directly into their bank accounts -- to offset higher energy costs. It also does not supply three years of unemployment benefits at 70 percent of former wages -- plus job retraining and relocation -- to those whose jobs are shipped overseas, as prescribed in the House bill.
Instead, at a glance (which is the way most in Congress ever seem to examine legislation), this bill appears rather easy to take. Most of its 357 pages are devoted to sections entitled "Oil Spill Response," "Reducing Oil Consumption," "Improving Energy Security," and "Protecting the Environment." There's even a portion devoted to further grill BP via subpoena power. With sugar-coating like this, the sixty votes necessary to pass seem possible.
However, beneath the glaze, there's a clot of overpowering government spending and social engineering.
For example, electric vehicles are pushed via the bill's "Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010." No surprise here, particularly since the government has a 61% stake in General Motors and Chevy's electro-mobile, the Volt. Besides this Act allowing the feds to spend $25 million on new electric cars for their official fleet, there's an astounding electric car welfare program. Section 2116 explains that 400,000 such vehicles will be virtually given away at low cost -- or perhaps no cost -- to people living in "selected communities diverse in population" and "demographics."
Additionally, pages 264-265 require that any new construction or remodel of an existing structure must include the installation of proper hookups for charging an electric vehicle. So even if you have no intention of owning such a car, adding that extra bedroom will require you to spend additional money to install battery-charging infrastructure in your garage.
The bill also heralds the coming of the "Batteries For Tomorrow Prize." The first person to build a car battery that runs 500 miles on a single charge will win a taxpayer-funded reward of $10 million.
And there's bait to entice truck owners to switch from traditional petroleum to natural gas. Section 2002 describes federal rebates, ranging from $8,000 for large pickups to $64,000 for heavy-duty Class 6 trucks weighing 26,000 pounds, available for those who install the equipment to make the fuel swap. And government grants (not loans) of up to $50,000 are available for gas stations to install natural gas refueling pumps.
And then there is the section of the Senate bill dedicated to the new federal building code. Originally rolled out in the House's energy plan, the code -- which supersedes all state and local measures and is thoroughly detailed in my book, Climategate -- now has a name: "The Home Star Retrofit Act of 2010." This Act places a hard squeeze on every property owner to spend thousands of dollars in environmental compliance upgrades in a time of economic stringency and falling home prices.
Federal dollars will be paid to those who decrease their energy usage. With the Smart Meters being installed across the country (mandated in the 2005 energy law and capable of recording your energy usage minute by minute), the government will be able to accurately determine your carbon footprint. To entice you to reduce your footprint, rewards of $3,000 will be given for a 25-percent reduction in energy consumption, and $1,000 more for each 5-percent reduction achieved -- up to a maximum of $8,000. A similar plan is proposed for water consumption.
Additionally, federal rebates of up to another $8,000 per home are available for upgrading doors, windows, insulation, roofs, water heaters, air conditioners, etc.
Even with the government kickbacks, if you're still unable to afford all of the upgrades, Section 3015 declares that Fannie Mae will be the official lender to provide you with a "Home Star Efficiency Loan." This means taxpayer sponsored Fannie will be taking on even more debt.
As one who has written extensively about the ideological machinations of the environmental movement and its leaders, I can tell you that this Senate bill is everything they wished could have been packed into the original House proposal.
If the Senate bites on this legislation, an airsickness bag will be required. The bill will go to committee, be conjoined with the massive House plan, and be presented to a lame duck Congress who will ram the bad medicine down our throats.
We need to hound the Senate now. Tell them to keep this poison pill away from their lips.
Brian Sussman is a former television meteorologist and the author of Climategate: a veteran meteorologist exposes the global warming scam. He hosts the morning show on KSFO, 560AM, in San Francisco.