We already discussed the fact that the new Senate energy bill is once again chock full of goodies for the green energy lobby, but there are some other weak spots in it as well. In addition to containing things which conservatives generally agree shouldn’t be there, there are a few items left out which really should have made the cut. Among the most glaring is the failure of the committee to include lifting – or at least easing – the decades old ban on crude oil exports. (Bloomberg)

The leaders of the Senate energy panel released a bill Wednesday that includes measures to promote energy efficiency and protect the electric grid from cyber threats, but avoids the controversial issue of lifting a ban on exporting U.S. oil.

The bill was drafted by both Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the Republican chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell, the panel’s top Democrat. A similar bill is advancing in the Republican-led House.

“This represents the universe of where there is bipartisan agreement,” Robert Dillon, a Republican spokesman for the Senate committee, said.

Congress hasn’t passed major energy legislation since 2007, as the parties have clashed over renewable energy commitments and projects like the Keystone XL pipeline to link Canadian heavy crude with U.S. refineries.

Citing “the universe of where there is bipartisan agreement” is some disappointing political doublespeak. I can understand the concept of not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, but the good in this case isn’t particularly great. When we only accept proposals which find cheerleaders on both sides of the aisle, we somehow reject advancing our infrastructure in traditional, fossil fuel areas which drive most of the energy grid, but manage to get all of the biofuel, wind and solar items into the mix. But back to the point at hand, if we’re not going to lift the crude oil ban, the Senate leaders owe us an explanation. It seems that the two chief architects couldn’t come to an agreement.

Since the 1970s, Congress has largely prohibited sales of crude exports to countries other than Canada. Murkowski has said the ban should be lifted, given the rise in domestic oil production, but Cantwell says the issue needs to be studied further.

I’m glad that Murkowski is on the right side of this one but she really needed to go to the mat on it. If you look at Maria Cantwell’s answer, it’s the same tactic which Democrats have been using for decades. She doesn’t have an answer as to why the ban shouldn’t be lifted so she’ll simply say that the matter requires more study. That’s how Barack Obama has handled the Keystone Pipeline since 2008. Everything needs “more study” before we act. And if the studies in question turn out to support the project and disprove environmental alarmism, then even more study will be required. That strategy was also used in New York by Governor Andrew Cuomo on the fracking question, delaying and ordering one study after another before finally rejecting them all and instituting a permanent moratorium.

It’s time to lift the ban and open the markets. End of story.

One other interesting item turned up in the energy bill which is worth a brief look. While fossil fuels were getting the cold shoulder, geothermal energy generation was getting a ticker tape parade. (Business Wire)

“The provisions in this bill will help reduce timelines in the geothermal development process and unlock new utility-scale projects,” said Josh Nordquist, Director of Business Development for Ormat Nevada Inc. “We at Ormat Nevada Inc. commend Senators Murkowski and Cantwell for working with the industry on these cost-effective policy solutions.”

The legislation features five titles reflecting common ground on energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation. In the supply title, it includes several provisions supporting geothermal energy. It would:

  • set a 50,000-MW National Geothermal Goal;
  • direct federal agencies to identify priority areas for development;
  • allow federal oil and gas lease holders to obtain a non-competitive geothermal lease to facilitate coproduction of geothermal power — today 25 billion barrels of hot water are produced annually from oil and gas wells within the United States;
  • facilitate new discoveries by allowing the limited non-competitive leasing of adjacent lands where a new discovery has been made; and
  • provide geothermal exploration test projects a limited categorical exclusion provided the lands involved present no extraordinary circumstances.

These aren’t just goals and priorities and we all know it. Once Uncle Sam decides to put someone on the winners’ list as part of the never ending game of picking winners and losers, subsidies and bills to be paid by the taxpayer are never far behind. Look… I’m not opposed to geothermal energy. I think it’s great in the limited number of places where it’s current feasible. But we also don’t need to sink even more federal money into fluffing up programs which are of essentially limited value. Anyone who wants to set up a steam plant working off the heat energy contained in the Earth should be encouraged to do so if it’s safe and profitable. But we don’t need to foot the bill for government efforts to make it seem more desirable than it currently is.