The US government has never had so many balls in the air at the same time with such grave implications for the future of energy in the country. Currently there are dozens of congressional actions, international agreements, court decisions, regulatory rulings, and energy-related government loans and grants being proposed, debated or readied for implementation.
At the top of the list is the Waxman-Markey climate change bill which seeks to place severe restrictions on carbon emissions. Passage of the bill in anything close to current form would have a profound impact on energy in the US and could serve as a catalyst for far-reaching international agreements. Last week the G8 leaders pledged cuts of 80 percent in emissions over the next 40 years.
While the bill passed easily through the House, it faces a tougher time in the Senate where many see little need to cap emissions and claim the bill is simply a disguised form of taxation. Beijing has also weighed in, saying that any form of a carbon tax will lead to trade war.
A bill to increase tax incentives for buying vehicles fueled by natural gas is making its way through congress.
Close behind in likely impact is the emergence of the now government-owned and -financed GM from bankruptcy with a mandate to produce a new generation of more efficient automobiles.
The biggest regulatory news of the week is a move to limit speculation in energy futures by US and some foreign governments. This move has already elicited cheers from those who fear that energy speculation has the potential to destroy the world economy, then expressions of concern from Wall Street where energy speculation is seen as an important way to balance markets.
Even the courts got into the act last week when a Bush administration ruling that would have allowed power plants and factories to avoid installing pollution control equipment was struck down.