recent years, the world’s appetite for oil and natural gas, combined
with a squeeze on supply, has sent energy prices on a steep climb
with no end in sight. High gasoline prices have already pinched our
pocket books, but prices for diesel fuel, heating oil, natural gas
and even natural gas-based fertilizer will reverberate throughout
the economy for years to come.
America’s overextended energy system was already running full steam
this summer when Katrina knocked out (for the time being at least) a
sizeable chunk of America’s capacity to import, extract, refine and
distribute fossil fuels. As a result of our nation’s lack of
preparedness for such a hurricane, Americans can be sure of one
thing: high prices at the gasoline pump. But there’s more. We can
also expect higher prices for natural gas, heating oil and
electricity as well.
long and short-term solutions to the problem are obvious and
challenging. America needs to wean itself off our unstable and
unsustainable sources of energy by dramatically improving the energy
efficiency of our homes, cars, appliances and businesses. And most
importantly, we need to move towards more renewable sources of
The Bush administration and Congress appear determined to take us in
the opposite direction. In a clear example of special-interest-
business-as-usual scenario, President Bush included billions of
dollars in handouts to the oil industry, the nuclear industry and
other energy companies through the energy bill he signed last month.
The President has made it a priority to make it harder for Americans
to conserve. He has pushed hard to weaken C.A.F.E. rules and
preached a policy of consumption being necessary for the health of
the American economy. The President refuses to add aggressive
requirements for clean, renewable power, limits on emissions of
pollutants that cause global warming (which some believe will
contribute to more severe storms in the future) to his energy bill.
[Justin Kreindler, Consumer Associate, Illinois PIRG]
[to top of second column in this article]
It was in this spirit that the President’s immediate reaction to the
emerging energy crisis after Hurricane Katrina was to open the
strategic petroleum reserve to the oil companies and to relax air
quality standards for gasoline. Only after the administration
realized that these measures would fall short of achieving their
goal did he call on the public to conserve.
lessons of Katrina must not fall on deaf ears. Our precarious
position today is a result of failed energy policies that perhaps
will now convince Congress and the President of the need for a more
sustainable, diverse and secure energy system. But if it doesn’t,
there’s another place that citizens should be able to turn for
leadership: the States.
the past few years, a growing number of states have begun to move
toward a better and more efficient energy system. Texas has pledged
to double its commitment to renewable energy over the next decade.
Arizona recently joined eight other states in tightening energy
efficiency standards for appliances and California is poised to pass
the biggest solar power bill in the country. In the Northeast, nine
states recently agreed to reduce global warming emissions from power
plants, while several other states are doing the same for cars.
Illinois must take action as well to help ensure a secure, clean and
economically sustainable future for all Illinoisans. We should adopt
a renewable energy standard, as proposed by Governor Blagojevich
last February. This would allow us to develop the enormous potential
for wind energy in rural Illinois, creating jobs, stabilizing
electric rates, and helping our environment. To help conserve energy
resources and save consumers money, the Illinois legislature should
support energy efficiency standards for appliances. Illinois policy
makers should also look long term at our transportation policy that
encourages alternative fuel vehicles, planning that minimizes the
number of miles people have to travel and invest in public
transportation so people have choices.
Hurricane Katrina has reminded us, the time to start making those
changes is now. Americans can’t afford to wait for the federal
government to rescue us from the disastrous energy policy decisions
of the past. It is now time for the states to lead.
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