Sen. Kerry\’s energy proposal is pure politics, not practical policy

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) today unveiled what he purports is the Democratic Party\’s alternative to the Bush Administration\’s energy policy, which passed the House of Representatives last year 240-189 with the support of 36 Democrats. Sen. Kerry\’s offering, which is likely destined for an override-proof veto in the highly improbable event that it passes Congress, the House bill (H.R. 4) is widely believed to have enough broad and bipartisan support in the Senate to ensure passage.

So why is Sen. Kerry attempting to float this lead balloon? Is this actually just another trial balloon for a presidential bid?

For months, Sen. Kerry has threatened to filibuster H.R 4, should it ever reach the Senate floor, to strip out the provision allowing for very limited oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska. The ANWR provision has the full and support of both Alaska senators, as well as the people who live in ANWR\’s immediate vicinity. Alaskans want it and America needs it, but the extreme elements of Kerry\’s party base hold considerable sway in the primaries.

Sen. Kerry\’s proposal places strong emphasis on conservation measures and developing renewable sources of energy – both of which hold promise in the long-term (and are dealt with appropriately in H.R 4) – but neither of which will help to quickly reduce America\’s excessive dependence on foreign energy, which now constitutes an untenable 56% of all energy consumed in the United States.

Sen. Kerry also calls to increase corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) requirements for automobile manufacturers, which would cause cars, trucks, and SUV\’s to shrink in size and weight to meet the new CAFE standards. This in turn makes vehicles far more dangerous to drive. In 1999, USA Today estimated that fully 46,000 Americans had died in car accidents because of the switch to smaller vehicles, and a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reached the same conclusion, finding that smaller vehicles are responsible for a 14-27% increase in car occupant fatalities.

Moreover, higher MPG rates paradoxically encourage people to drive more and thereby consume more fuel, obviating any intended CAFE benefit. Can this be recommended as a responsible energy policy with a straight face?

Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, observed, "Sen. Kerry is not trying to advance this country\’s pressing need for more energy independence and security. Instead, he is positioning himself for a run for the White House in 2004 by appealing to the pro-Big Government, anti-industry contingent of his party. He knows as well as everyone else that he\’s making an empty gesture. The voting and taxpaying drivers of America will not be fooled, and they\’ll remember his stunt two years from now."