Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

EDITORIAL>> Another giveaway

Congress last week finally passed an energy bill that has been four years in gestation, and there seemed to be general relief and celebration that the government finally did something about the nationís energy problems. Gasoline prices that exceeded $2.50 a gallon in some places drove both houses finally to action.

We can restrain our joy. Congress in the end took out the worst features of the Bush administrationís bill ó opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling and liability protection for gasoline additive companies ó but the massive bill that passed will do nothing to lower fuel prices, now or ever. Even President Bush acknowledges as much. The bill is a Christmas tree of tax breaks and subsidies for scores of energy companies, which finally put aside their competition to lobby for its passage.

Absent from the bill were any of the measures that might have produced for the nation a more abundant energy supply. Raising the corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards, which have been static for more than a decade, would dramatically reduce the nationís dependence on foreign oil supplies.

The CAFE standards instituted in the Carter administration did just that, but the big oil companies and carmakers scotched the movement once Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in 1995.

We and our grandchildren will pay an awful price for the dereliction. The people of almost no state will pay a bigger price than Arkansas, where the average number of miles driven per person is about the highest in the United States. Nothing in the bill will benefit Arkansas except a provision directing the cleanup of the old nuclear site in Washington County once operated by the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR).

It is not enough.