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House energy bills fill many pages, raise many costs

Bob Tippee

People facing overhaul of fundamental energy systems should read the legislation that proposes to change their lives.

Here's what you do: Go to In the "Search Bill Text" field, type "HR 3221," select "Bill Number," then hit "Search." When you finish reading HR 3221, repeat the steps for HR 2776.

It shouldn't take more than—well, much depends on reading speed.

HR 3221 fills 496 pages. It takes a lot of words—161,662 of them, to be exact—for a government to overhaul the energy-use patterns of the US economy. All those incandescent light bulbs to replace. All those tax favors to help promoters of uneconomic energy get rich.

HR 2776 is shorter. Its 56 pages and 16,479 words would hike taxes on the industry that produces and processes oil and gas to raise money for various kinds of support for energy forms that House members like better—expensive forms with limited scope for raising total supply.

The apparent strategy: Discourage investment in economic energy able to boost supply meaningfully, and stimulate investment in uneconomic energy with much lower supply potential.

Anyone who thinks that sounds less than sensible should remember all the wonderful conservation measures the House proposes, such as replacing cheap light bulbs with expensive ones.

There's a lot of substitution of the cheap with the costly going on here. But that's okay to anyone who accepts a central motivation behind all this: the fight against global warming, about which HR 3221 has much to propose, all very expensive.

With global warming, of course, costs aren't supposed to matter. Bills that profess to bring the Age of Petroleum to a premature end can claim to be fighting global warming.

But would HR 3221 and HR 2776 end the Age of Petroleum? No. They might nibble at demand and raise the energy-market shares of nonfossil fuels by a few percentage points. They wouldn't end the dominance of oil, gas, and coal, though. Mostly, they'd make everything more expensive than it is now.

So what's the point? Somewhere amid 178,141 of words that would raid American bank accounts, there really should be one.

(Online Aug. 10, 2007; author's e-mail:

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