Oil rig in Utah
courtesy of BLM
When he was ready to roll out his plan, Vice President Cheney famously said, “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient … energy policy.” His “drill here, drill there, drill everywhere” energy plan alarmed conservationists around the country.
Now, 12 years later, these same failed policies are getting new life from Sen. Lisa Murkowski. In some cases, Senator Murkowski goes even further than Vice President Cheney in the wrong direction.
Here is a sampling of the comparisons and contrasts of the two energy plans:
- Renewable Energy: Cheney: No targets for renewable energy. Basically, keep favoring polluting fossil fuels over clean energy
Murkowski: Ditto all of that. Favors phasing out the successful and cost-effective wind production tax credit (which wasn’t around when Cheney made his plan).
- Climate Change: Cheney: Among 400 pages of deeply technical energy policies and directives, the former VP has only one that mentions climate change. Given the rapidly melting permafrost in Alaska, and the devastation wrought by superstorm Sandy we thought a policy response to climate change would be more present 12 years later.
Murkowski: Still only one page on climate change. Not even a suggestion of how to regulate climate change causing carbon pollution, which is surprising, since Murkowski once co-sponsored a bill to establish a cap-and-trade program and her state is on the front lines of climate change.
- Alaska’s Public Lands: Cheney: He advocated opening some of the most sensitive lands to oil and gas drilling, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and areas like Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska.
Murkowski: Despite representing the Land of the Midnight Sun, Murkowski reiterates the call to drill the most sensitive parts. Even though the latest proposal from the BLM would leave more than 70% of available oil open to drilling, Murkowski’s energy plan calls it unbalanced and not tilted enough towards oil drilling. Like Cheney, she would begin drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge – the ecological heart of the refuge, and the birthplace of thousands of caribou each year.
- Environmental Review: Cheney: In Vice President Cheney’s plan, he describes “streamlining” permitting and larger coordination with state and local authorities. This could lead to bad environmental decisions being “fast-tracked” but still allows for some environmental protection.
Murkowski: This is where Senator Murkowski goes even further, advocating a significant weakening of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA is a vital tool in making sure that the federal government doesn’t jam development decisions down the throats of affected communities. Without NEPA, the environment and local communities could be devastated by energy projects while the public’s views are given short shrift.
What is clear from putting these two energy plans side by side is that the position of the oil and gas defenders has not changed in 12 years. Despite increasing carbon emissions, a boom in renewable energy technology and jobs, a devastating economic recession, and a much more globalized economy since 2001, the answer to every energy question is still more fossil fuels and easier access to them. Despite a clear need to move away from dirty fossil fuels and increase our energy efficiency to lessen our dependence on unstable regions of the world, there are those who are still advocating for continued dependence on oil. It’s time we moved past these stale overused ideas and looked toward a clean renewable future.