Energy Bill

Last week enough U.S. Senators beat back a 400 page energy bill loaded with goodies for its chief backers — the oil, coal and nuclear industries.

The opponents of this legislation, many of whom favor a basic program fostering energy efficiency and renewable energy in place of more fossil fuels and more radioactive fuels, surprised themselves with this victory. But a tide of citizen revulsion against corporate greed and bailouts is sweeping the nation and approaching Washington, D.C.

Consider some of the proposed giveaways:

1. The highly profitable electric companies owe over $11 billion to you, the taxpayers, for uranium enrichment services that Uncle Sam provided to atomic power plants over the years. This bill, S.1220, supported by Democrat, Senator Bennett Johnston and many Republican Senators, would cancel most of this debt outright and let the federal government sell future enriched uranium below cost!!

2. 5.1220 would permit the government to write blank checks on taxpayer money for demonstration programs for coal-based synthetic fuels and new nuclear reactors owned by private corporations. Such open-ended subsidies in the past have led to waste and inefficiency that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Yet this Bush-backed bill wants more such corporate socialism — privatizing profits and socializing losses.

3. This Exxon supported bill would open up the fragile Arctic. Wilderness area in Alaska to the same oil companies that made a vast mess of the Prudhoe Bay tundra. Bush wants to jeopardize this pristine wilderness instead of requiring the auto companies to produce more gasoline-efficient cars that would save far more oil than even the highest speculative estimates of any oil found in this wilderness region.

The Senate sponsors of S.1220 were not foolish enough to let the bill be just a Christmas tree for special interest. They included provisions for diversifying motor vehicle fuels away from gasoline and a little attention to auto fuel economy and renewables.

But these provisions were just the bait for continuing on the Reagan/Bush/Texaco/Peabody Coal/Con Ed path of fossils and atoms, Greenhouse effects and ever more likely meltdowns. Instead of toughening safety regulation of atomic power plants and their construction, the bill weakens this regulation and, for bad measure, makes it more difficult for communities and citizens to challenge the location, construction and design of nuclear plants. More atomic authoritarianism, more acid rain, more ozone depletion and more shutout of the American people.

Where was George Bush and Dan Quayle? Right behind this pernicious, environmentally degrading, consumer-costly, legislation all the way.

Fortunately, they lost, for the time being. And maybe the public tide against gigantic corporatism on the taxpayers’ back is gaining momentum. Nineteen ninety two will be far more interesting a political year than was envisioned by the pundits just a few months ago.

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