Sausage-makers unite!

From being a close witness to both professions, I can assure you that comparing energy policy-makers to sausage-makers is a gross insult to sausage-makers.

People often ask me what I think of a particular piece of energy-related legislation. Unfortunately, it's usually difficult for me to answer with anywhere near the degree of earnestness in which the question is typically asked.

For instance, this past week, I received inquiries to comment upon the action taken by the U.S. Senate to pass an energy bill. (See Washington Post article.) This is a piece of legislation that includes a tightening (finally!) of the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for new automobile sales, and a move to phase-out inefficient incandescent light bulbs. However, a long-term extension of the production tax credit for renewable energy and a proposed national renewable energy portfolio standard was dropped at the last minute.

While I do support the energy efficiency provisions of the bill, the abdication of any responsibility for pushing the U.S. towards further adoption of renewable energy for power generation--in the face of compelling needs for economic development, enhanced energy security and reduced carbon emissions that can be provided by renewable energy--is quite galling.

I continue to be astonished that many people must have the naïve belief that the public sector is capable of passing good energy legislation. I wish I could say otherwise, but there's not much historical evidence or precedent to suggest that assumption. It would be wiser for people to ask me whether there's anything positive about a particular energy bill, rather than assuming that the bill is generally favorable and inquiring whether there's anything to be worried about.

This weekend, I finally had the chance to watch the documentary film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" If anyone wonders if (or why) U.S. energy policy is on the wrong track, this would be a good entry point. I was forewarned that I would be angry at the end of the film, but I guess I'm simply too experienced (or jaded, or even cynical) to fall into that trap.

As the old adage says, there are two things you don't want to see being made: policy and sausage. My father was in the pork business, so I've seen sausage being made. With my work in D.C. in the late 1980's and in Columbus in the past 18 months, I've also seen energy policy being made. From being a close witness to both professions, I can assure you that comparing energy policy-makers to sausage-makers is a gross insult to sausage-makers.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the Founder and President of NextWave Energy, Inc.

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