By Chase Huntley, energy policy analyst, The Wilderness Society - 07/08/08 06:52 PM EDT
I agree with Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that “we are clearly at a crossroads” when it comes to ensuring future generations have access to abundant energy resources (op-ed, “A first step to serve future generations,” June 25). Unfortunately, his proposal for unlocking oil shale reserves in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming ignores the many technological, economic and environmental questions that need to be resolved before we can count on oil shale development to make any contribution to our energy needs.
Rep. Upton’s recollection of the past also seems a bit fuzzy when he explains last year’s oil shale moratorium as “inexplicable.” Fourteen Republicans joined 202 Democrats after a House floor debate in voting to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from finalizing the rules governing a commercial leasing and development program for oil shale because it was the right decision at the right time.
Last year’s vote did not affect the government’s oil shale research and development program. This research program is needed to establish the basic information about the challenges of oil shale development before a commercial-scale program can proceed. Industry officials say commercial oil shale development is at least a decade away. Because viable oil shale development is so far off, local officials in the affected states are urging Congress to get the facts before making decisions that could undermine local economies and divert limited water supplies away from ranching, agriculture and recreation.
Furthermore, according to the United States Geological Survey, millions of acres of oil shale deposits are already in private hands, controlled by companies such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the Oil Shale Exploration Company, Red Leaf Resources and Anadarko. Yet none of these companies have developed a successful commercial oil shale process. Obviously, we need not simply give away additional wild lands in the West to oil shale speculators at this time.
We all wish there were an easy answer to lowering gasoline prices. Unfortunately, oil shale is not the panacea Rep. Upton portrays. Instead of enabling our nation’s oil addiction, let’s ask our congressional leaders to speed the use of renewables and enact conservation measures that will work to reduce energy prices today. The Energy Information Administration estimates we have cut our need for oil by 100 billion barrels through 2050 already through these measures. Such forward-looking policies should be the direction or nation takes.
Credit card legislation would punish consumers
From James Terry, chief public advocate, Consumers Rights League
In a June 10 op-ed (“A turning point in consumer credit”), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) paints a picture of credit card companies as modern-day Goliaths responsible for increasing the price of everything from milk to mortgage payments.
But, common sense undercuts Rep. Maloney’s arguments. And there are significant shortcomings in her offered “solution,” the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights Act of 2008 (H.R. 5244). Despite its name, this bill would actually harm consumers. By restraining companies’ ability to use risk-based credit assessments, this bill would significantly limit access to capital that many Americans use responsibly.
Unlike collateralized loans, credit card companies have a tougher time safeguarding their interests. They can’t exactly re-sell the Caribbean cruise you took last month and charged to your credit card. So, companies use risk-based credit assessments to determine interest rates for cardholders. This practice emphasizes — and is based upon — personal responsibility in credit management.
Credit card companies absolutely have a duty to fully disclose their policies upfront. But, Americans should not expect an inalienable right to government-mandated low-interest credit regardless of personal behavior.
Inserting excessive government regulation over risk-based credit assessments will only punish responsible consumers.