On what planet are House Republicans living? The one on which NASA is telling us that the polar ice caps are melting at a much faster rate that we thought, or the one on which it makes sense for the GOP point-man on energy, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), to say this, as he did Wednesday:
Spending, even for laudable goals like energy efficiency or developing affordable alternative energy sources and technologies, needs to be scrutinized for effectiveness....In other areas, I believe the budget is inappropriately cheap, and this is especially the case with regard to fossil fuels.
Upton went on to argue that burning oil, gas and coal produces the electricity that powers Americans' way of life. True enough, but providing these fuels to the public is also a pretty profitable enterprise — in some cases exceptionally so. Steady increases in commodity prices have even spurred a boom among companies peripheral to energy resource extraction, such as firms that make mine doors or those that produce giant wheels for mine equipment. Strictly in terms of America's increasingly tight budget, why oppose spending less taxpayer money on a flourishing industry? And, of all times, when it is becoming yet more attractive for private investment? This seems like it should be among the first things GOP budget cutters "scrutinize for effectiveness."
Promoting coal, oil and gas, of course, also encourages reliance on fuels that dirty America's air and drive climate change. In his last State of the Union Address, President Obama sensibly proposed taking the federal money spent on fossil fuels and putting it into research and development of the sorts of next-generation energy technologies that don't have such negative side effects -- a policy that's better, too, than simply throwing freed-up cash at wind or solar.
This accords with a commitment the Group of 20 made last year to phase out fossil fuel subsidies across member states, an effort that, the International Energy Agency estimates , would by 2020 result in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an amount "equivalent to the current emissions of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. combined."
But, it seems, disguising drill-baby-drill-ism as forward-looking energy policy is the House’s priority right now.