Molly Ivins is a columist for the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram. Her
column appeared in the Peninsula Daily News (Washington State) Friday, May 4,
Back-to back speeches by the Veeper and the only president we've got beggar
Let's have a new rule: If you pronounce the word "nukular", you shoudn't go
around nullifying nuclear treaties. Or building nuclear power plants. I
don't know if a National Missle Defense system will work, and neither do you.
Most experts not employed by the defense industry are dubious about it at
best, but you never know how far we could get if we spend enough time and
money on it. If we spend the first $60 billion, we'll probably be a lot
further along than we are now, thus justifying the next $60 billion.
The problem is, it's massively stupid in terms of national security. What's
a bigger threat to the United States: North Korea or global warming? Our
children will live to see the answer to that. It's their future we're
playing with. Hearing Dick Cheney make a speech that was outdated by the
standards of the oil industry in the 1960's was eerie. Reactionary Texas
oilmen are thick on the ground here, but Cheney is a throwback.
Cheney's National Energy Policy Development Group - two Texas oilmen, a CEO
from the electricity-gobbling aluminum industry and a tool of the energy
companies, all members of the Cabinet, meeting in secret - is pushing coal,
and hard. Unfortunately, it is the dirtiest source of electricity
generation. The administration not only has reneged on its promise to curb
coal pollution, but now it proposes to ease the pollution controls already in
place. Naturally, the group is also pushing oil and gas - major contributors
to global warming - and, incredibly enough, de-emphasizing conservation.
What kind of energy policy would abandon conservation, which is effective and
cost nothing? OPEC is the only hurt by it. Under the Bush budget plan,
renewable energy programs lose 36 percent of their piddly total funding of
the $373 million, according to New Technology Week.
Wind-generated electricity is already cheaper than nuclear-generated
electricity. It's highly probable that solar-powered photo-voltaic systems
will also be cheaper before long: The city of San Francisco votes this fall
on whether to back a $250 million bond issue for solar power.
One easy and simple way to bring down the price of gasoline is by letting
fuel-efficiency standards rise to where they already would be if the auto
companies had not interfered via generous contributions to Congress. Some
remarkable reporting by Jeff Plungis of the Detroit News reveals the auto
companies have now wired the study being conducted by the National Academy of
Sciences on fuel efficiency. Nine of the 13 panel members have ties either
to the auto or oil industries; are free-market economists who do not believe
in government regulation; or have criticized fuel-efficiency standards in a
very public way.
Meanwhile, back in the world, fuel efficiency is at a 20-year low, mainly due
to the popularity of SUVs. Congress first passed fuel-efficiency standards
in 1975, when the average car got less than 14 miles per gallon. By 1985,
under the required standards, that doubled to 27.5 mpg. It has since slipped
to 24 mpg. Plungis reports that automakers have shifted virtually all their
technological gains into bigger and more powerful engines, rather than
improving fuel efficiency. Half the new cars sold are now SUVs. It is
neither difficult or onerous to improve their mileage: It would cost about
$700 additional per vehicle, but with a fuel saving of about $2,500 over the
life of the behemoth.
Speaking of campaign contributions, Time magazine reports Cheney's aides
consulted with the West Virginia coal baron Buck Harless, a Bush pioneer (at
least $100,000); Stephen Addington of AEI Resources, whose executives gave
more than $600,000 to Republicans last election; and of course, our old
favorites Peabody Energy - the biggest coal miner in the country - whose
chairman gave over $250,000.
Could this payout possibly be more obvious? //
(article transcribed by Diane Clemens)