Politicians tout energy mistakes for 'our children'

Bob Tippee

It's time to post guards at the playground. Politicians are marketing energy programs with invocations to "our children."

The administration of former President Bill Clinton adored this rhetorical device. Nearly everything it proposed was for the sake of "our children." Implicitly, opposition was tantamount to denying babies their milk.

Of course, some parents preferred to keep their kids out of government's tender embrace. Especially a government presided over by the charming Mr. Clinton. Especially the parents of girls.

But government of the children, for the children, and by—well, never mind. It's back.

"The issue of energy independence is too important to our children's future and our nation's future to sit idly by," declared House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland as he announced the latest folly from Congress.

This would be the body whose cover-everything energy bill passed less than a year ago has been such a rollicking triumph that lawmakers feel compelled to do it all over again.

Hoyer's offering is the PROGRESS Act. The all-caps part is an imperfect acronym for "Program for Real Energy Security."

The measure, described in press notices as "a comprehensive energy independence bill," would establish the National Energy Security Commission and New Manhattan Center for High Efficiency Vehicles, reimburse private investment in distribution infrastructure for biofuels, promote transit use and encourage investment in (subsidize) rail transport of biofuels, and in other ways encourage use of fuels other than oil, especially biofuels.

"Democrats are leading America in a new direction, and that includes making our country energy-independent," Hoyer said at a press conference in Washington, DC.

The formula: Subsidies for biofuels plus subsidies for mass transit plus subsidies for high-efficiency vehicles plus new commissions and programs and mandates equal energy independence.

Nonsense. Biofuels and conservation can come nowhere close to achieving US energy independence; the goal is whimsical. And governmental attempts to force energy choices onto the market always fail and always raise costs.

Neither children nor their parents need costs that yield no benefit. With energy, in fact, it's better for government "to sit idly by" than to repeat mistakes.

(Online July 28, 2006; author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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