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Fiddling While America Burns

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Over the past two nights, the Sierra Club reached 27,000 Americans and asked them to join me and T. Boone Pickens on a nationwide teleconference -- and a stunning 45 percent of them took the opportunity to share their concerns and ask questions about how to get America off its addiction to imported oil.

Is Washington going to listen?

Not likely. Nero seems firmly ensconced in the Minority Leader's office in the House of Representatives. The Democratic leadership took the Republicans up on their challenge to weigh in on an "all of the above" energy initiative.  They're offering a bill tomorrow that includes a limit on the area covered by the off-shore oil moratorium to give the oil industry the opportunity -- if the states agree -- to drill along the Atlantic Coast, plus new areas in the Gulf of Mexico. This should satisfy the "drill, drill, drill" mantra -- although as both Boone and I, and the Bush administration, and John McCain know, it won't make a tinker's damn of a difference in the price of oil or our dependence on imported oil.

But the bill also contains some critical, if modest, steps that will make a difference. Most importantly, it extends the production tax credits for renewable wind and solar, credits that are essential to the future of the clean energy industry. (Uncertainty about the continuation of these credits has meant manufacturing plants and generating facilities that would otherwise be in the pipeline are being canceled left and right.) It also would establish a nationally mandated Renewable Portfolio Standard, give consumers a choice of fuels at the gas pump, improve building standards, repeal oil industry subsidies, and require the oil companies to use the leases they already have or pay a penalty. (Some of this may change between now and Thursday -- this is the latest version.)

So is House Minority Leader Boehner grabbing this "all of the above" proposal and actually enabling this Congress to do something about our energy crisis? Does he really want to solve the problem -- by drilling?

No way.

In fact, Boehner is threatening to shut down the entire federal government unless he gets what he wants -- their pro Big Oil, drill-only plan. He claims that the Republicans will vote against any budget resolution to continue funding the government unless it drops -- completely -- the restrictions on off-shore oil drilling. The Republican leadership is not only determined to give the oil industry access to every inch of America's coastline -- they are willing to bring the government to a halt and are holding any real progress on energy hostage to their giveaway to Big Oil.

If there was ever any doubt about the leadership of what is now the Grand Oil Party, it is gone -- they are paid for by Big Oil.