When Congress passed the energy bill in December, it did everything necessary to please a horde of special interests and very little to actually help Americans with their energy problems. Truth is, America still has no energy policy – just a lot of pork for those feeding at the tax-paid trough.

Political correctness comes from special interest groups who lay down the law with politicians (read: we won’t give you any more money unless you say and do things our way). In such an atmosphere there is little room for reasoned thought on the consequences of the legislation Congress enforces on the rest of us. The energy bill is the prime example of law by sound bite.

The new law mandates that auto makers must boost mileage by 40 percent – to 35 miles per gallon – by 2020. The reason given by the politicians is that this move will help make America less dependent on foreign oil. Funny though, there isn’t a word in the bill about drilling for American oil in Alaska or increasing drilling off shore. Both areas have proven to have near unlimited reserves that could easily free the nation from the Middle
East oil czars. Why? Drilling American oil simply isn’t politically correct.

The main reason for the mandate is to satisfy the massive environmental lobby that nearly rules Capitol Hill. They have big bucks and a lot of power. Their ultimate goal is to get people completely out of their cars and onto public transportation. That’s why you see little in the way of road improvement in transportation bills, but lots of money being thrown at public transportation. Public buses, subways and trains are politically correct. The problem is they just don’t necessarily go where the average traveler needs to go – at the time they need to go there.

Of course, mandating higher mileage will force automakers to charge more for the cars because the technology to do it will cost more. And that works perfectly to the anti-car agenda of the environmentalists. The mandate will also force the automakers to produce smaller cars – something the American people have made perfectly clear they do not want and won’t buy. Alternative? Fewer cars. That’s why public transportation is politically correct.

Another major provision of the energy bill is the production of ethanol – again, a measure promoted as a way to get us off the foreign oil fix. The trouble is, American farmers can’t raise enough corn to supply what is needed for the mandated ethanol production, let alone supply enough to feed us. And the cost of corn products is already through the roof. As a result, to meet the congressional mandate, the U.S. now has to import corn to produce ethanol. The main source is communist China. So, perhaps the ethanol mandate will help reduce our foreign oil dependency … but, it seems we are just going to shift the pain to an even worse source – Red China. Ain’t globalism and free trade grand? And it’s politically correct.

Of course, the wise men in the Congress foresaw this problem, so the bill mandates a large portion of ethanol to come from the conversion of other cellulose materials. The problem is, that technology has not yet been developed. So Congress passed a law for something not yet invented. And that helps our energy needs … how?

In a bold move, Congress managed to ban the incandescent light bulb. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said such action was “proper congressional action.” Instead, Congress is mandating the politically correct compact fluorescent bulbs that use as little as one-fourth the power of the conventional bulbs.

It’s interesting to note that the major manufacturers of incandescent bulbs are not upset by the new legislation; in fact they helped write it. Why? Well, could it be that the standard incandescent bulb costs about 50 cents each, and the new ones cost as much as $3? Of course, they tell us they last longer, so the cost is only up front – and so are the manufacturers’ profits. Certainly they will be able to help write legislation to ban something else to increase their market share before the full mandatory transition to the new bulbs in 2012.

One more note on the new lights: Reports are now coming out that they cause migraine headaches for many people because they work like standard fluorescent tubes which subtly and constantly flicker. Epileptics are especially affected. Moreover, they make a very harsh, cold, white light. Gone will be the warm, cheery mood lighting of the incandescent bulbs. Again, Congress bans a product with only the information fed to them from global corporations who stand to gain. But, more importantly, the new lights are politically correct.

The compromise energy bill did resist the demands of environmentalists to eliminate tax breaks for oil companies (money they wanted used for the development of green energy sources). The greens wanted to mandate that power companies produce certain amounts of energy by renewable means such as solar and wind. However, while that bullet was dodged this time, alternative energy is still wildly popular and most definitely politically correct. So it is important that all Americans understand the worthlessness of alternative energy in solving America’s current crisis.

Here are some facts concerning energy production: Producing 50 megawatts of electricity using a gas-fired generating plant, as is in use today, requires two to five acres of land. Getting the same amount from photovoltaics means covering a minimum of 1,000 acres with solar panels. Of course, there also has to be access for trucks to clean the panels. Using the sun to meet California’s energy needs would mean paving over hundreds of thousands of acres of desert habitat – along with their resident plant and animal life. And if the sun doesn’t shine for, say six months, as in Alaska, well, we freeze in the dark.

A 50-megawatt wind facility requires even more land: at least 4,000 acres. The 100-200 feet tall wind turbines ruin habitat and scenic vistas and represent “an imminent threat” to millions of birds and bats. Today, just in Northern California’s Altamont Pass, wind turbines kill thousands of birds every year, including eagles, hawks, owls and other birds of prey. Some call the wind turbines “Cuisinarts in the air.” In addition, wind energy is unreliable. If the wind doesn’t blow, no energy.

If produced by wind, the 7,000 to 10,000 megawatts of additional electricity California needs immediately would require sacrificing over 400,000 acres to wind turbines, foundations and road access. If solar power were used, more than 100,000 acres would have to be blanketed with panels.

On a national scale, the environmental impacts of wind and solar alternative energy become truly staggering. Former Deputy Energy Secretary Ken Davis has calculated that, to produce the 218 gigawatts of “additional” electricity America will need by 2010, using only wind or solar power, we would have to blanket 9,400,000 acres with wind mills or solar panels. That’s almost 10 percent of California. It’s an area equal to Connecticut, Delaware and Massachusetts combined. Moreover, to get all of this electricity into urban areas, miles and miles of wind turbines and solar panes must be linked to miles and miles of high tension power lines – the same kind all other energy sources need. There is no gain from solar or wind power – only loss of energy.

A true energy policy would see government getting out of the energy business and standing aside as the real experts fix the problem in a free market where consumers could pick their power of choice. A few acres for nuclear power plants would solve much of the nation’s energy needs. Drilling for oil off shore and in Alaska will give us complete independence from foreign sources and will also keep America out of a lot of foreign turmoil.

Above all, American energy policy must allow for the building of new oil refineries. There hasn’t been a new one built since the 1970s, and several have been shut down – 10 in California alone. Every time one shuts down simply for repairs, gas prices spike.

Yet these ideas are rejected for the politically correct alternatives. Such ideas are the current “wisdom” of our day. The source of such bad policy is special interest groups lining the pockets of mindless politicians to get their own agenda locked into federal mandate – but it doesn’t solve America’s energy problems. In fact, it adds to them. As we fool around with such silly, unworkable dreams of a “carbonless footprint,” Americans are paying $3 at the pump, and potential power blackouts threaten our cities. This is no way to run a country.

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Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center and editor of The DeWeese Report.

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