Gas prices continue to rise at local gas stations. I generally try to stay on the sidelines of politics, but simply cannot do so anymore. The partisan bickering is Washington is enough to give anyone a headache.
Last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner suggested that incentives for the oil industry ought to be put on the table as part of the discussion of future budget battles. When President Obama called him out on this very issue later in the week, the Majority Leader reverted back to supporting the oil companies and once again removed reducing incentives from consideration.
While the politicians were debating incentives for the oil industry, oil executives were defending record profits and placing the blame on federal and state gas taxes in order to deflect critics. Federal and state gas taxes have remained largely flat during the most recent run-up in gas prices. Funds raised through these taxes pay for the construction of roads, bridges, and highways. Some revenue, albeit a minimal amount, is spent for mass transportation.
While Congress was in recess last week, the realities of the recent budget battles have come to light. The EPA’s budget was cut by $1.6 billion for the remainder of the year. The Energy Information Administration’s budget was cut by $15.2 million for the remainder of the year. What this signifies is a step by step approach by the Republican Congress to starve important energy and environmentally conscious agencies of funding at a time when they need it most.
Has the environment somehow become an enemy of the Republican Party? The EPA was formed under the Nixon Administration. When it was formed, it was out of concern for the chemicals and other pollutants that were being released into the air and an interest in preserving wildlife and their natural habitats in the U.S.
However much we would prefer to be devoid of government regulation, the simple fact remains that if we were to operate in a laissez-faire world, pollution would be far worse, cars would not be as safe as they are today, and our food supply would not be as safe as it is. In the words of one of our founding fathers, James Madison, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
History is replete with leaders telling us that we need to take care of our environment. Whether it was Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900’s, Nixon, Ford, and Carter in the 1970’s, or more recently, Clinton, Gore, and Obama, the warning has been clear. Take care of the environment, rely less on oil, gas, and coal, and pursue renewable forms of energy.
The assault on the environment, climate change, and clean technology by the Republican Party is an insult to Americans of all generations. If we are taught in school to learn from history and the mistakes of the past, why do our leaders consistently fail to right the ship? One obvious concern is the relationship between money and politics. Maybe watchdog groups should tweet every time oil, gas, and coal companies donate to our politicians and lobbyists “suggest” legislation on behalf of their clients that adversely affects the environment, climate change, and clean technology.
The great political marketing machine will tell you that more regulation of the environment will negatively affect economic growth. However, green jobs, whether they are “green collar” jobs or “green white collar” jobs are growing.
Political leaders are not the only ones to blame. We are to blame as well. Not only do we support politicians who continue to insult our intelligence, our own behavior contributes to some of the problems we face today.
A true revolution in the creation of clean energy needs to be embraced, with which an effort to understand the complex environmental issues of our time needs to be made. Once we have accomplished this, we can finally negotiate in good faith regarding the environment and our energy needs.