The 2007 Energy Bill looks like it might end up providing us with a civics lesson in checks and balances. White House economic adviser Allan Hubbard sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week saying “it appears Congress may intend to produce a bill the President cannot sign.” President Bush will not sign a bill, according to the letter, that includes a mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, unclear CAFE enforcement jurisdiction, limited alternative fuel (ethanol) programs, or oil tax increases. Meanwhile, the legislative branch is making noise about an Energy Bill filibuster in the Senate. I just moved “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to the top of my NetFlix queue.
The threat of a veto is not a surprise, as Hubbard sent a similar letter to Congressional leaders in October. With that in mind, cynics allege that legislators on both sides of the aisle baited the veto threat, allowing each to go back to their constituents and blame inaction on the other side. Boondoggling, bureaucracy and brinkmanship abound!
The letter focuses on achieving Bush’s “Twenty in Ten” plan he put forth in January’s State of the Union Address, which aims to cut U.S. gas consumption by 20 percent by 2017, on his terms:
We can achieve much of the President’s “Twenty in Ten” proposal without legislation and are prepared to do so if the President deems legislation to be unacceptable. Still, we prefer a legislative solution, and the President’s team remains ready to meet with you or your designees to resolve our concerns. Bipartisan processes and comity have been indispensable in passing past energy legislation, including the bipartisan energy bill of 2005.
While the president is refusing to sign a mandatory RPS, he is quite eager to see what else he can do for the corn-based ethanol industry. The economics and environmental realities of ethanol in our current system, however, are fundamentally flawed. While the letter claims “the President’s proposed alternative fuel standard would go farther, faster than the draft legislative provisions now being circulated,” going further and faster in a direction of heavily subsidized corn or cellulosic ethanol of dubious environmental benefit is hardly a solution.