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The Daschle Energy Plan:
400 Pages and Still No Energy Independence

If the events of September 11 have taught us anything, it’s that a strong national energy policy reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil is essential to long term national security.

Last May, President George W. Bush unveiled his national energy plan, an integral part of which was opening a tiny sliver of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration. The House of Representatives moved relatively quickly to approve H.R. 4, Securing America’s Future Energy Act of 2001 (SAFE), which contains most of the measures sought by the President — including the ANWR provision. However, the Senate is a different zoo and Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has mired the energy debate in partisan politics.

Daschle and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (D), both 2004 Presidential aspirants courting the environmental lobby, have successfully prevented a Senate vote on the House-passed bill. Kerry has mounted countless filibuster threats against any energy bill that calls for exploration in ANWR, and the majority leader has repeatedly refused to schedule a vote on ANWR — even though it represents this country’s largest untapped onshore energy reserve. Despite the desperate need for more domestic energy production to begin, Daschle and Kerry’s political gamesmanship has eliminated any chances for Senate passage of a comprehensive energy plan this year.

Instead, Majority Leader Daschle recently announced the introduction of an alternative bill, the Energy Policy Act of 2002 (S. 1766), that will serve as the base for debate in February — a bill filled with hypocrisy and ineffective programs. Of course, this alternative bill, the second energy plan introduced by Senate Democrats in the last 10 months, does not include a provision for ANWR exploration. Nor does it sufficiently address a path to energy independence.

The Daschle plan puts major emphasis on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, tripling the amount of energy generated from such sources by 2020 as a way to reduce America’s energy dependence. While Congress should not shy away from exploring greater energy production through these renewable sources, solar and wind power is very expensive and, alone, have proven insufficient in generating vast amounts of energy. Solar energy is unlikely to ever provide enough power to have even a miniscule effect. Windmills are simply unreliable. As Senior Fellow for the CATO Institute Patrick Michaels bluntly put it, windmills "stop working precisely when energy demand is at its greatest (during the hottest and coldest temperatures, which usually occur under calm conditions)."

Senators Daschle and Kerry, armed with talking points from their environmental extremist friends, have criticized the President’s energy plan as one that provides "favors" to "big oil" in the form of tax breaks. Yet the hypocrisy of Daschle’s plan is that it may provide equal, if not more, so-called "favors" in the form of loan guarantees and gigantic subsidies. The difference is the tax breaks outlined in the President’s plan provide incentives that will lead to better technologies in terms of production and delivery infrastructure, leading to cost effective energy. The loan guarantees and subsidies outlined in Daschle’s plan will cost significantly more and call for government mandates, leading to higher energy costs.

Daschle’s bill does provide for increased energy exploration in the portion of Alaska’s North Slope, already open to oil and gas drilling. Yet, according to many experts, those wells are drying up. That is all the more reason why the majority leader’s refusal to permit a vote on responsible exploration in the tiny arctic sliver of ANWR, specifically on roughly 2000 acres of Area 1002, makes no sense beyond the political.

ANWR is the birthing ground for the 129,000-strong Porcupine Caribou herd, and environmentalists claim exploration will disrupt the herd to a point of extinction. However, one doesn’t need to look very far to the heavily-drilled Prudhoe Bay-area, home of the Central Arctic caribou herd. The Central Arctic herd has increased five fold since drilling began in Prudhoe Bay in the early 1970s. Thirty years of scientific observation should be enough to understand that responsible exploration and wildlife preservation can and will coexist.

It is no secret that Daschle’s environmental friends generate large contributions on the ANWR issue. It is likewise no secret that Daschle needs their support as he gears up for the Presidential race in 2004. Regardless, the claims of environmental destruction -- should there be drilling in Area 1002-- are unfounded.

To achieve more energy independence, America has to produce more domestic energy, exploring all promising sources. Area 1002 in ANWR, which was put aside by Congress specifically for oil and gas exploration and development, provides the most promise for reducing our dependence on foreign oil sources. The nearly 400-page Daschle plan does not.

[Posted on December 14, 2001]

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