Energy bill ignores elusive long-term fix

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Much like almost every other American today, the rising gasoline prices are really starting to have a substantially adverse effect on my daily finances. As my checking account balance draws closer and closer to negative numbers, I have become increasingly interested in the finite details of President George W. Bush’s proposed energy bill, which he has been touting in speeches as being the only viable solution to the gas-price dilemma.

As I read the proposed bill, I quickly discovered that the theme of the bill has nothing to do with energy regulation, conservation or finding alternative energy sources as the title of the bill, along with the president’s rhetoric, might lead one to believe. Instead, the bill places a greater emphasis and incentive on oil production. Essentially, the energy bill authorized exploratory drilling in Alaska, as well as significant tax breaks to oil production companies. My ailing pocketbook really wanted to believe that in this instance, Bush was being honest with the American people in saying this was the best solution, and that he is doing everything in his power and examining all possible solutions to the dilemma. The skeptic in me, however, knows otherwise.

Most obvious is that the president, in his urging Congress to have the bill ready for him to sign by the summer, would have the American people believe this bill is an immediate fix to the rising gas prices. In fact, and as the president even conceded in his April 29 primetime press conference, Americans would not see the benefits of this plan for at least 10 years.

The other thing really bugging me was a statement the president made that he is doing everything within his power to solve the oil crisis, and that this bill presents the best possible solutions. But that begs the question: For whom is this the best possible solution?

I understand this bill would certainly increase oil production, which in turn would lower gas prices (in 10 years). But even in the longer run, this is only a quick fix, and only the oil companies stand to profit. After all, oil is not an unlimited resource, which means even with increased production, we will once again run low, and this dilemma will repeat itself.

This is quite the conundrum. Why would a president say he wants to permanently (rather than temporarily) fix Social Security so as to not pass along burdens to future generations, support an energy bill that would only prolong the inevitable, and pass this dilemma on to future generations? I’ll leave that answer to the imagination.

As I am sure most people remember from the last presidential election, pointing out shortcomings is hardly enough, as an alternative plan is required as well.

Rather than ignoring the core issue — that oil is a rapidly diminishing endangered resource — we should confront it head-on. For starters, let’s make an effort to conserve what we do have left. By saying this, I do not mean to imply that we should all start driving less, but rather, I am suggesting that the president propose legislation to Congress requiring automakers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles.

This surely won’t sit well with the president’s stingy automaker lobby, but last I checked, they’re only a small minority of the president’s constituency. By mandating that vehicles be made more fuel efficient, we will be able to solve the supply-and-demand issue that has contributed to higher gas prices. Coincidentally, this is a much more eco-friendly solution than what the current energy bill suggests. This would not be an immediate fix, either. Still, it is something that can be achieved in between three and five years, easing the stress on our pocketbooks in more than half the time of the energy bill’s plan.

Despite both those benefits, this too would only be a temporary fix. In the long term, we’ll need to dedicate significant time and resources to developing an unlimited and renewable resource, such as hydrogen or solar rays, into a concentrated source of energy that can be used effectively and inexpensively. By pursuing these courses of action, we’ll simultaneously be doing the environment a favor, and permanently putting an end to the price gouging we are suffering at the pumps. And in the long term, we’ll also be protecting future generations from another intolerable power crisis.

Sadly, a plan like this, which is obviously a better plan for both the short and long-term, will never become a viable option while this president is still in office. The president’s proposed energy policy, along with the majority of his foreign, domestic and economic policies, are reflective of a man of the wealthy, concerned with making the rich richer, keeping the poor down, and constructing a historical presidency, regardless of its long-term consequences.

Jeremy Ward is a senior political science major.