Discord is rampant between the House and Senate today, the source of fracture being an overdue energy bill that is on the verge of passing. Says Henry Waxman, the California Representative, "The bill is simply a failure. It's a huge waste of money."
The Texan that heads the House energy committee says different, promoting the bill as the right kind of subsidising that our energy service providers deserve. House members, however, have failed to convince him to incorporate a Senate provision to use more renewable energy sources and to direct the President to ween the national oil habit.
"We are having an energy bill that is doing so much on the supply side that we need to address the demand side, " says Waxman, describing the bill's whittled-down goals as the "bare minimum of what we ought to be doing."
Apparently other representatives have concerns that diverge from energy demands. "Just telling the President to wave a magic wand and tell each and every one of us that we need to conserve energy may sound good," says the Texan chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe Barton, "but those of us elected by the people every two years have a different view of that."
Oh, so it's an election issue, how Americans should conserve energy?
It's ignorant of Mr Barton to suggest that the President has a magic wand handy, when the President himself along with the Vice-President and the former White House Press Correspondent repeatedly deny possessing a magic wand. It was only April of this year that the President bemoaned his lack: "I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow; I'd do that." Three years ago this month, the VP griped along similar lines, when he admitted that "There's no magic wand that Washington can wave." In May of 2001, Ari Fleischer provocatively suggested that "If any politician has a magic wand that they can wave over gas prices to lower them, the President would like to listen."
There's a connection here, in these repeated invocations, that is drawn (four years and counting!) between gas prices and this magic wand that is tragically missing from our Administration's otherwise well-stocked supply of mystical problem-solvers. But in the year 2000 on the campaign trail, our future leader set the precedent of the magic wand in reference not to gas prices but to healthcare reform when aloud he said "I wish I could wave a wand." It was not yet a magical stick then, as it has so clearly become now. Nevertheless, we Americans have all the more reason to feel the loss, and to feel sympathy for the Administration; our President has been aware of not having a magic wand for five years!
At any rate, the energy bill looks like business as usual in the current climate of loosened controls and consolidating decision power to the federal level. The bill aims to repeal Depression-era Public Utility Holding Company Act, which limits utility mergers. Seeing how utilities are realising record-breaking profits (those high gas prices have to profit somebody), such a repeal doesn't bode well for healthy economic competition.
The bill's authors have also rejected state-level objections and granted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval authority over new terminals handling gas imports. That's not very Republican of them, is it?