August 3, 2008 at 9:01AM
by Jim DiPeso
Hollywood screenwriters could come up with a fictional scenario that makes Congress look worse than it did in real life last week.
But its hard to see how.
Both Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have professed their undying love for renewable energy resources. Their affection, however, took a back seat to rock 'em, sock 'em partisan politics when the Senate failed to move legislation extending various tax incentives for renewable resources.
If the game of chicken goes on much longer, the tax incentives will expire at the end of the year, and billions of dollars in wind, solar, and other clean energy investment capital is likely to go elsewhere, where the politics are less toxic and the financial certainty more solid.
Rather than putting money where their energy mouths are, both parties are playing for political trophies.
Reckless and feckless, thats what they are.
The reckless Republicans are blocking important bills, such as the renewables incentives, as leverage to push for oil drilling floor votes, which polls show may play to their advantage. The feckless Democrats are maneuvering to dodge oil drilling floor votes, which has the effect of sandbagging important bills, such as the renewables incentives. Theyre trying to run out the clock while they hope that the November election will paint the whole town blue.
The demand by Republican leaders in Congress for more domestic oil production is looking too much like an obsession of the vein-throbbing variety.
Their stated goal is to produce more domestic energy. Fine. Loosening up the oil market with more domestic supplies might help a bit over time. But their bloody-minded tactics send a narrow message that only one kind of domestic energy counts the kind that burns. The danger of holding the renewable energy tax credit extensions hostage for drilling floor votes is that wind and solar projects ready to go in 2009 could be sacrificed for uncertain fossil fuel prospects.
The Democrats, for their part, seem afraid of their own shadows. The Republicans want floor votes on drilling. Rather than clog up the works by trying to dodge the votes, bring 'em on. If blocking domestic oil drilling is that important a cause for Democrats, then, dammit, Reid and Pelosi, settle the matter. Take a couple of Sam Rayburn pills, discipline your caucuses, and play to win. Take care of the publics business now, not when you think it might be politically convenient.
The collapse of the renewable tax incentives bill didnt get much press, as it played second fiddle to the indictment of Ted Stevens on charges of making false statements in connection with a gifts scandal.
Uncle Teds legal problems are fodder for sensational headlines. But Congress turning Americas energy future into a political game is the bigger scandal.
The Senate adjourned to its August recess on July 31. The House will soon follow. Lets hope that during the dog days, the sun shines hot, the wind blows hard, and our elected representatives are reminded that country is, always and forever, more important than party.