Throughout the fall, you will hear Republican leaders use the phrase "All of the Above" to describe their energy policy. The idea is that our energy crisis is so significant that we need to take all the options on the list and throw them at the problem.
It's a catchy phrase, one that sounds vaguely bipartisan. But soup-to-nuts approaches to major national issues are not effective. Imagine:
• The "All of the Above" Iraq strategy: Would it include everything from massive troop deployment until 2015 to troop withdrawal by the end of the year?
• The "All of the Above" education policy: Would it include everything from local school board control to a national curriculum?
Even Congress is rarely that incoherent. So it makes me wonder what is behind the "All of the Above" brand party leaders are pitching. When I look closely at their list of policy measures, it reads more like the worst of the worst.
Offshore Drilling Is a Trojan Horse for Dirty Fuels
Supporters say that "All of the Above" proposals are meant primarily to dismantle the moratorium on offshore drilling. But nestled within that effort is a bundle of dirty fuels waiting to burst forth: oil shale development would be allowed on federal lands, liquid coal would get government loans, and nuclear power would get more tax breaks in addition to the $150 billion in taxpayer money it has already received. These technologies have not proven economical yet, but their backers see a window of opportunity in our energy crisis.
It reminds me of when the Bush administration seized the threat of terrorism to install a host of policies they had waiting on the shelf, from emboldening executive power to invading Iraq.
Special Interests versus Americans' Interests
This supposedly all-inclusive approach does not include ways to help Americans deal with high energy prices right now. Proponents make it sound like its about relief at the pump, but almost all the measures--from offshore drilling to liquid coal--will take years to develop and do little to help global oil prices.
Giving taxpayer money to underwrite these dirty fuels benefits special interests. In contrast, giving tax relief to consumers for things like buying cars that get 50 miles a gallon or fixing up their old cars so they run better serves the interest of regular Americans.
It Takes Us Farther Down a Dead-End Road
Al Gore describes two of the fuels that would be heavily subsidized by "All of the Above" this way: "Junkies find veins in their toes when the veins in their arms and legs have collapsed. Developing tar sands and oil shale is the equivalent."
• Oil shale, a rock found in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, can be turned into fuel, but it takes so much energy to produce that it emits four times more global warming pollution than conventional gas. Production could require as much water as almost 1.5 million people use in one year.
• Tar sands oil production creates three times as much global warming pollution as conventional oil production and requires massive strip mining in places like Canada's largely pristine boreal forest.
• Relying on coal-derived liquid as an alternative fuel could nearly double global warming pollution for every gallon of transportation fuel produced and used.
Our nation's oil addiction is hobbling economic growth and consumer spending power. Going back to the dealer for dirtier and poorer performing fuels will only postpone the inevitable: we need to get on a cleaner energy path.
The Best of the Rest
We don't have to drain precious water out of the arid West or chop the mountaintops off of Appalachia to fuel our growth. There are plenty of cleaner, faster, and cheaper ways to address the energy supply crunch, ranging from improving the fuel efficiency standards for our cars to offering incentives for homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient.
All of these cleaner options also address the elephant in the room that the "All of the Above" folks like to ignore: global warming. Oils shale, liquid coal; they just make global warming worse.
Make sure your representatives know that you want the Best of the Rest and none of the Worst of the Worst.