Bass’s inefficient energy efficiency politics
Congressman Charlie Bass wants to tell government workers’ laptops to wear a sweater. That mildly misconstrues his “smart energy” bill, but Bass does seem to be channeling Jimmy Carter. Carter’s “malaise speech” might have been a downer, but what is becoming Bass’s swan song is a bummer for its program priority, if not its public policy.
Matthew Stepp, a clean energy policy analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, described the Bass lead-sponsored H.R. 4017 Smart Energy Act as “high-impact” for its proposed leveraging of the federal government’s 445,000 buildings as green guinea pigs. Stepp, Bass, and industry trade associations are more bullish on government as a first adopter as opposed to a last resort. How about fewer government buildings and workers? That was the mandate of the 2010-election voters who last sent Bass and a majority of his fellow Republican members to Washington. An environmental analogy is appropriate. You have lost the forest for the trees when you focus on making our federal buildings more energy efficient rather than making them nonexistent. Senator Shaheen says the companion Senate bill is our “best chance” to improve on a purported demand-side energy policy. Thoreau and Reagan endorsed, “That government is best which governs least.” Should New Hampshire accept the Bass-Shaheen “best” aspirations in lieu? Do they meet the standard of first-in-the-nation, first among nations?
We’re reluctant to knock an incumbent, seven-term congressman from a political dynasty as small-time. Such is impolite and unproductive, right? Moreover, advancing the ball or solving discrete problems are valid process alternatives to megabills in the order of Obamacare. Bass’s legislation is readable, just not laudable.
Politicians can be assessed on their personality, policies, and priorities. Bass’s liberal-progressive Democratic opponent Annie Kuster, who has known him her whole life, acknowledged on WMUR last weekend the “Uncle Charlie” reputation of the disarming, if disheveled, official. Bass’s legislative work rarely earns or merits ink or cyber chatter. His subpriorities within the American energy question are what we question.
An April Huffington Post article predicted, “As gas prices rise, Bass will trumpet his work to increase energy efficiency.” That would be the wrong tune. As we explained in our last New Hampshire Journal piece (“Cheap gas, good electricity”), oil-as-fuel and electricity generation are decidedly distinct concerns. But Bass might soon be rendered mute and the legislation moot, with only nine House cosponsors, including just three joiners over a month following an “Energy Efficiency Tour.”
The last time one of us wrote on Bass, Alex reeled off (wink) the pun of fishing for votes in the southern tier. A catchier (wink) piscatory cliché is more fitting here—Bass has bigger fish to fry. He might look to a prominent moderate Republican, Christie Todd Whitman. The former New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator is a nuclear energy advocate. New Hampshire needs advocates for the Seabrook Station plant during its ongoing recertification. Senator Murkowski of Alaska is looking out for area energy issues, recently presiding over an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on electric grid reliability “in light [her pun unintended] of the power outages experienced by New England last October after an historic Nor’easter.” Murkowski is also proactively representing her home state, developing Japanese and other new markets for Alaskan natural gas.
Newt Gingrich was stump-specific on the “how” as well as crystal clear on the “why” of domestic energy independence: $2.50 gasoline and that, “[i]n a very real sense, we can be free of radical Islam, Saudi kings, and Chinese bondholders.” Comically to some, the planet could not contain the ideas and best laid plans of our friend and former Speaker. But this current congressman is neither shooting for the moon nor among the stars when it comes to securing a near future of energy independence, small government, and big prosperity.
Andrew Hemingway is a conservative activist from Bristol and the managing director of Digital Acumen, a Twitter platform company. Alex Talcott is the public affairs principal of Vaura Consulting LLC and an adjunct instructor at Newbury College.