Sympathy for the Oil Industry.

Yesterday, as reported by The Washington Independent's Andrew Restuccia, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski came out swinging against Democrats who attack the Republican energy bill as a "bailout" for the oil industry:

The Republican bill holds oil companies accountable and makes sure taxpayers are never on the hook for spill clean up costs. But, and this is a big difference, it ensures that smaller, independent oil companies can still get insurance to explore in the Gulf of Mexico – saving tens of thousands of Americans from being forced unnecessarily onto the unemployment line simply because Democrats want to punish Big Oil.

Of course, Murkowski's protesting notwithstanding, the Republican energy bill is pretty much a giveaway to the oil industry. The "American Energy Act" aims to achieve energy independence by hugely expanding the scale of domestic drilling and massively subsidizing nuclear energy. It would lift the ban on oil exploration in the "outer continental shelf," expedite construction of oil refineries, open up the Arctic to drilling, and increase production of oil shale. What's more, the bill's authors aim to build 100 additional nuclear power plants by 2030. Given the huge cost of new nuclear power plants -- an estimated $8 billion per plant -- even a partial subsidy would constitute a massive taxpayer giveaway to the nuclear industry, to say nothing of the costs borne by the taxpayer in the event of reactor failure.

Beyond that, the AEA would amend the Clean Air Act to state "that the term air pollutant does not include carbon dioxide and certain other greenhouse gases" -- to circumvent EPA regulation of carbon -- and it would prohibit "any consideration of the impacts of greenhouse gases on any species of fish or wildlife or plant," so that the Endangered Species Act could not be used to regulate climate change. In all, the AEA does everything it can -- short of a constitutional amendment -- to keep the federal government from addressing climate change. Which, I'm sure, greatly benefits the coal and oil companies that donate millions to Republicans (and their allies among conservative Democrats).

On this one, Democrats are absolutely right; the AEA doesn't even attempt to regulate or reduce greenhouse gases, and it doesn't do much to bring the United States closer to energy independence. Like most Republican proposals in the 111th Congress, it exists mostly so that Republicans can say that they've thought about the issue. But even that's only partially true; like nearly everything else on their agenda, Republican ideas on energy independence are a simple throwback to the failed policies of George W. Bush.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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