Senate stalls on porkish energy bill

On Friday, senators voted not to block a Democratic filibuster of the highly contested energy bill. Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., insists he will bring the bill up for a vote again even if senators have to work through Thanksgiving. However, Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton, Democrat, and Norm Coleman, Republican, voted to block the filibuster. Dayton was just one of 13 Democrats who voted against party lines after being lured by enormous subsidies in the bill and support for special interests.

Over the next decade, the legislation would cost $27.5 billion, but very few members of Congress are lingering on that point. The bill promises $800 million for the creation of a coal power plant in the Iron Range, a project proposed by Excelsior Energy. While the funds might create hundreds of jobs, they will also subsidize dramatic increases in pollution. Coal gasification creates toxic byproducts that are reused in commercial fertilizers and chemicals. Coal gasification plants in other states have contaminated local ground water.

Congress clearly included these measures for the Iron Range to win the support of Congress members in the Plains states for other measures. In particular, Coleman is an important ally to the Republicans, as he might stand in the way of future legislation to permit drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Other Congress members were bought with tributes to their pet projects, most notably “greenbonds” to help build tourism and shopping malls. One mall in Shreveport, La., will include a Hooters restaurant.

The bill does little to increase security measures around nuclear power plants or address other homeland security issues. Nonetheless, President George W. Bush could not resist invoking the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – that perpetual reason to “act expeditiously.” He said, “Reliable and affordable energy is critical to our economic security, our national security and our homeland security.” We guess that if the final bill is passed, residents of Shreveport, La., will certainly find it easier to sleep at night.