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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

THE POLITICAL FRONT: THE ENERGY POLICY MODERNIZATION ACT

The Senate passed the first broad energy bill since the George W. Bush administration by an extraordinary 85-12 vote on Wednesday, April 20.

The bill, called the Energy Policy Modernization Act, would facilitate approvals of liquefied natural gas export projects while promoting more alternative and renewable energy resource development, according to the Oil & Gas Journal. For those of us who are not literate in the terms of such things, liquefied natural gas is natural gas that has been converted to liquid form in order to transport more easily. Compared to natural gas, liquefied natural gas takes up 1/600 the volume in its gaseous state and is odorless, colorless, non-corrosive and most importantly, non-toxic. Here is more information on liquefied natural gas.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, were the authors of the bill. In order to expedite the process of passing the bill, major energy challenges of the nation were purposefully unaddressed in order to achieve bipartisan support.

In December, the House of Representatives passed a bill that was similar, but the White House cited that it would possibly veto the bill due to portions of the bill. Talks over a number of issues also stalled the process, including proposals for a measure to help Flint, Michigan with addressing drinking water contamination. Another issue that wasn’t mentioned was Congress lifting the country’s oil export ban and extending tax credits for wind and solar power for five years.

“We need Congress to get with the times and stop writing bills that prop up the fossil fuel industry that’s wrecking our climate.”

Jason Kowalski

Sophomore Moriah Post-Kinney is hopeful that the bill will have a positive impact on the environment. Though passing an energy bill is a step in the right direction for our nation, Post-Kinney thinks that dropping certain issues in order to achieve votes is questionable.

“It’s tricky because you come into a brick wall when you try [to] bring controversial issues like the environment [up],” Post-Kinney said. “By not bringing them up, they can’t be encompassed as greatly as they need to be to make change.” 

In addition to helping with natural gases, the bill would also respond to the rapidly transforming energy landscape. Within the bill are provisions to promote renewable energy, require significant upgrades to the electrical grid, including large-scale storage systems for electricity, improve the energy efficiency of buildings, loosen permitting rules for construction of natural gas pipelines on federal lands and to cut down on some greenhouse gas pollution. This is an official overview of what the bill will actually do.

Since the last energy bill that was passed in 2007, domestic oil production has increased more than 80 percent, while natural gas production has increased about 30 percent, making the U.S. the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producers. Renewable energy now accounts for 13 percent of all electricity and there are predictions that electricity from renewable sources will increase by 9 percent this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Though there are many approving views of this bill, not everyone is as supportive.

Jason Kowalski, the policy director for 350.org, an environmental advocacy group that led protests against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada, is one who is not enthused.

“This bill is the V.H.S. tape of climate policy: tolerable in the 80s or 90s, but not in-tune with the scientific realities of 2016,” Kowalski said. “We need Congress to get with the times and stop writing bills that prop up the fossil fuel industry that’s wrecking our climate.”

Is this bill the beginning of what we as a country or even the world have been looking for or is this just wasting more time that we need to be addressing the major environmental issues that have been avoided for the passing of this bill? Let The Western Front know by leaving comments below.

Vanessa Thomas, The Political Front reporter // Photo courtesy of Vanessa Thomas
Vanessa Thomas, The Political Front reporter // Photo courtesy of Vanessa Thomas

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