A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
Choking on a Bush Policy
June 17, 2002
by Eric Howard
Owners of the nation’s dirtiest coal fired power plants just want a chance to clean up their act. And gosh darn it, basic clean air standards prevent them from doing it. And if only the tobacco industry could sell their products to minors, cancer rates in this country would vanish. Poof.
We don’t need to delve into the administration’s secret meetings with energy executives to uncover a conspiracy foisted on the public through double speak and fuzzy logic. A great big loop-hole in the Clean Air Act has always exempted the oldest and dirtiest power plants from meeting modern standards. Until now, however, the dirtiest coal fired power plants in this country had to meet modern clean air standards if they chose to expand operations. In other words, they couldn’t use their special exemption to build new or super-sized dirty power plants, thus creating an empire of dirty power plants.
If they wished to make more money by making more energy, they needed to pay the price and clean up their act. Respiratory illnesses and acid rain caused from air pollution could no longer be excused when modern technology offers a cleaner alternative.
That was then. Now, freed from the Clean Air Act by President Bush, the administration proclaims that power plants will do the right thing and install cleaner technology on their own. Trust in the corporations, pleads the administration.
By the administration’s logic, if industry were forced to use the most modern technology, they wouldn’t expand at all. And therefore, they’d continue their dirty old ways. In reality, many companies were sitting down with the EPA, ready to comply. But the administration said wait, stop thinking like this is a democracy. Pretend you’re king. (An actual White House memo told industry executives to ask for whatever they wanted, as if they were "kings.") Ahhh, we get it, said the industry. We’ll clean up on our own and at our own pace, wink, wink.
Of course, the logical remedy would be to close the loop-hole. Don’t let the dirty power plants wait until they expand to clean up, clean up now. But that was tried. Industry fought it and a compromise was made. The compromise was (we’re now back to the beginning) if industry chooses to expand, then they must meet the clean air standards. Now, twenty plus years after the Clean Air Act, Bush has torched that compromise. Winner takes all.
It is a game of political stakes. Most of the dirty old power plants are located in battle ground states, in the mid-west. But it is the north-east, because of prevailing winds, that sits at the wrong end of the nation’s tail pipe. This unfortunate chunk of real estate is mostly liberal. In other words, votes Bush can’t count on anyway.
Power seems to have its own logic. After corrupt corporations take their toll on the population, we’re implored by Bush to give them a second, third, and fourth chance. Corporations will get their act straight. Just remove all the rules, and then we’ll be able to trust them to do the right thing.
Follow Bush’s logic, and you’re liable to get lost in a world of smog.
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