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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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GOP should be ashamed of GAS Act

Wayne Madsen Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON – Some people just don’t seem to get it.

The Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress fancifully believe that current fuel shortages are the result of restrictive environmental laws and regulations. Oil-centric politicians claim environmental laws have stemmed the construction of new oil refineries and hence, gasoline shortages. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency that has been severely weakened by the Bush administration, admits that other factors have contributed to the current fuel shortage.

The EPA cites rapidly escalating demand for energy, energy pricing policies, oil import quotas, lack of incentives to invest in domestic energy facilities, and depletion of domestic oil and gas reserves as contributing factors.

Nevertheless, much to the detriment of the environment, the EPA has become an environmental deregulator instead of an enforcer. The agency has waived regulations governing pollution by power plants and diesel generators and weakened fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

The planet is caught in a vicious cycle. As the United States continues to ignore urgent global appeals to join in a massive effort to curb CO2 and other environmentally destructive greenhouse gases, the effects of global warming become more disastrous.

Record catastrophic hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico, including hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has crippled offshore oil and natural gas operations, adding to fuel shortages.

As the United States and other nations continue to roll back environmental laws and regulations, the surface temperatures of the world’s oceans and the melting of the polar and glacial regions will intensify. That means continued destruction of maritime oil and natural gas facilities and a greater fuel shortage. This is a no-win situation. Some may even call it insane.

But insanity and the GOP Congress are not all that inseparable. In early October, the House of Representatives narrowly passed, by 212 to 210, the outrageous Gasoline for America’s Security (GAS) Act.

The bill relaxes air pollution controls on power plants and refineries nationwide. In addition, it fast-tracks the construction of refineries on federal lands, including already heavily polluted closed military bases, as well as national wilderness lands and wildlife reserves.

In a very un-Republican move, the bill pre-empts local and state court authority to consider legal challenges to new refinery permits and transfers authority to the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. The bill fails to address the funding for and development of alternative energy sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and bio-diesel.

The sponsor of the bill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, is among those who just don’t get it about the vicious cycle of pollution, global warming, and fuel shortages. He claims we can’t stop hurricanes and their effects on our energy infrastructure but we should build more refineries so we have more gasoline. His solution is as reckless as it is simplistic.

As extreme weather conditions continue to wreak havoc on offshore and coastal oil and natural gas production facilities, the “energy infrastructure” referred to by Barton will never recover.

And as we continue to build air polluting refineries and pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, ocean temperatures will increase, resulting in more killer storms that will continue to severely damage or destroy existing and new coastal refineries.

From the House floor, Democrats roundly shouted “Shame! Shame!” as the GAS Act barely squeaked through. Indeed, the draconian GAS Act and other attempts to weaken environmental regulations and laws should be met with a national cry of “Shame!”

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