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Spinning the Stimulus: It’s Business as Usual on the Hill

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday February 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Now that the stimulus bill has passed, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any bumper stickers yet, declaring the ever popular propaganda mantra, “Don’t Blame Me, I (fill in the blank).” The “fill in the blank” this time around, would likely read “Didn’t Support The Stimulus.”
Spending much of the weekend reading about what was included and what wasn’t, it’s quite clear that political maneuvering certainly reared its ugly head on this one. The original House version had many flaws. The Senate-approved version stripped out some of those flaws, then added new ones or watered down necessary components. And what we’re left with today is really a bastardized version of what most voters expected.


Now I can’t say that I’m surprised. It’s the nature of the bureaucratic beast. And rest assured, it will continue long after Obama signs this thing, as politicians now must distance themselves from the stimulus in a way that allows them to take no responsibility if EVERYTHING isn’t fixed by the next election. Which of course, it won’t be.
Democrats and Republicans alike championed the rhetoric in an extraordinarily aggressive fashion over the past couple of weeks. Some are passionate about the issues, and some are obviously passionate about keeping those contribution dollars coming in. But whatever the reason, this last round of debates gave us a peek into what we should expect over the next four years – lots of idealogical bickering, and little progress. The fact is, even as it was becoming quite apparent that the stimulus was going to pass, the political machine kept rolling right along – pumping out press releases and manipulating the truth with a bit of good old fashioned spin.
Granted, no party has monopolized this strategy. Democrats ran this game for the past eight years, and now the Republicans are doing the same thing. It’s an exhausting head-spinner that has put us in one fine position today. But when it comes to this latest stimulus, no one has walked that slippery slope better than Alaska Senator, Lisa Murkowski.
Last week I received a press release from Murkowski’s office that clearly set the stage for a very dangerous agenda that could potentially stall a much-need progressive energy policy. Here are a few key excerpts from the press release that must be addressed…

“It is widely acknowledged that our nation will rely on fossil fuels for decades to come. But instead of taking steps to ensure that we have the supply and infrastructure necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign producers, this bill all but ignores the vast resources that we have here at home.”

Since Murkowski acknowledged the necessity of reducing our dependence on foreign producers, I’m assuming she’s talking about oil here. But the last time I checked, the oil industry was holding up pretty well. So why they would need any taxpayer money here is beyond me. Truth is, if those guys want to further develop their domestic resources, they certainly don’t need a piece of your paycheck to do it. And even if they can squeeze out another 30 years of domestic oil for us – then what? That’s the question that will continue to haunt us until we attack the real problem, which is not the inability to produce more cheap oil in the short-term, but rather preparing for a post peak world where we’ll have no choice but to find a replacement for much of the oil we use today for our transportation and agricultural needs. Sure, it can’t be done overnight. But certainly feeding the oil coffers with even more tax dollars isn’t going to get us to the energy independence promised land any sooner.
And as far as “ignoring our vast resources here at home,” it should be noted that the bill does include $3.4 billion for research and development of fossil fuel-based energy, while $2.5 billion has been set aside for energy efficiency and renewable energy research. Doesn’t sound like the fossil fools were ignored at all.

“We also know that the transition to a lower carbon economy will be extremely expensive.”

Yes, the transition to a lower carbon economy will be extremely expensive. Some have suggested the cost to the U.S. economy could be anywhere from $4.8 trillion to $6 trillion. However, I could find no objective, peer-reviewed data that outlines specifically how these costs are allocated or verified. Regardless, $6 trillion is a drop in the bucket when you look at the costs associated with doing nothing.
A few years back, the German Institute for Economic Research released a study which indicated that if nothing is done to restrain greenhouse gas emissions, annual economic damages could reach $20 trillion by 2100. There was a more optimistic report from Sir Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank. Stern’s review, which was the most comprehensive review ever carried out on the economics of climate change, indicated that climate change could inflict worldwide disruption as great as that caused by the two World Wars and the Great Depression. According to Stern, $9 trillion would be the global economic cost of doing nothing.
Of course, there was also the 2004 leaked report from the Pentagon, which predicted that rapid climate change could set off global competition for food and water supplies, and in the worst scenarios, spark nuclear war. And in 2007, the U.S. Army War College sponsored a conference called, “The National Security Implications of Global Climate Change.” According to retired Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, former commander-in-chief of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe, “Climate change can provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror.” Well certainly that’s exactly what we need! Military leaders warn that global climate change is a “threat multiplier,” exacerbating the conditions, such as water and food shortages, that tend to breed terrorist groups in volatile parts of the world. For example, nearly half the world gets about half of its drinking water from melting snow and glaciers that are quickly disappearing. Migrations of environmental refugees, strained border relations, and resource conflicts will make it hard for states to meet the basic needs of their residents, which will lead in turn to security problems.
Retired Marine Corps General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said it best: “We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”
So enough already with the rhetoric about how expensive a transition to a lower carbon economy will be. Clearly, the cost of doing nothing is significantly higher.

“Consider the benefits that could be brought about by greater production of oil and gas here in America. According to one recent study, the full development of domestic oil and gas resources could generate up to $1.7 trillion in revenues for the federal government and create as many as 161,000 new jobs by 2030.”

The study to which Murkowski has referred was conducted by the American Petroleum Institute. But even if it is accurate and completely objective (which is a pretty big leap of faith to make) let’s take a look at what clean energy offers as a comparison.
According to a report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, if aggressive steps are taken to rely on renewable energy resources, use alternative fuels and conserve energy, the number of “green” jobs in the U.S. could grow to 4.2 million by 2038. Unfortunately, unlike the American Petroleum Institute’s study, I could not find anything objective on the value of tax revenue creation via renewable energy integration. So if you happen to have any data on this, please feel free to share in the comments section below.
So why have I chosen Murkowsi for this rant?
I’m sure some of you are itching to suggest – in all caps, of course – that it’s because I’m one of those tree-hugging liberals. If that’s the case, so be it. I’ve been called worse. Though the truth is, anyone who supports strengthening our energy infrastructure with clean, domestic, and sustainable energy solutions should more appropriately be called a patriot.
But back to my reasons for focusing on Murkowski’s press release last Friday. There’s really only one…
She sits on the United States Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources.
Given her questionable support for progress and her desire to keep us strapped to a fossil-fuel economy as long as possible, this is troubling, and should concern anyone who thinks our heavy dependence on quickly-depleting fossil fuel resources is a bad thing.
In fact, she’s already begun her efforts to water down and confuse a potential federal renewable portfolio standard by suggesting that we not only drop the 20 percent goal to 15 percent, but also include nuclear to the definition of renewable energy. Regardless of how you feel about nuclear, it cannot be considered renewable, as it is dependent upon a fossil fuel resource. My friends, this is where slippery slopes creep into legislation.
At a time when renewable energy integration is urgent and paramount, any attempt to impede progress is simply unacceptable – and should be met with fierce opposition. Because this isn’t about stamping a liberal or conservative moniker on your forehead. This is about bolstering our infrastructure, strengthening our economy, and securing our very fortunate way of life for future generations.
It’s not rocket science, folks.


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  • http://www.globalwarmingisreal.com Tom Schueneman

    Jeff, great post.