by Roger Feldman -- Bingham, Dana and Gould, P.C.
Remember Etch-a-Sketchs. You drew on a blank pad covered with a cellophane like substance. Tired of the picture, you lifted up the cellophane and if you hadnt used your pen like a chisel you magically had a clean pad to draw on all over again. Dilbert actually convinced his boss it was a computer.
Now Congressman Barton, taking the reins of the Congressional committee responsible for kicking off this years round of electric deregulation effort, has advised us that he is following the etch a sketch paradigm: no carryovers from the past, all newly drawn rules directed by the mind of reason and the spirit of bipartisanship. Be still my heart.
Funny thing about etch a sketch though: those earlier "erased" pictures never really fully faded away completely less so the more often the same patterns were repeated. And thats the feeling you get as you listen to Barton tick off his preliminary stands on the issues which his proposed legislation will address.
The Barton Sketch
By this own statement, not originally a proponent of comprehensive legislation, Congressman Barton, who has an impressive track record as a legislative engineer on other fronts, has now taken on the energy bill at his leaderships direction.
Fading Lines on the Tablet
Equally important, one hopes and, based on Congressman Bartons evident savvy, expects is that he recognizes that in a fundamental sense, he is writing not on an etch a sketch, nor on a piece of old fashioned tabula rasa, but on a piece of historical parchment, with engrained watermarks, reflecting the great shifts in American energy history in the last decade:
The implication is clear: with such a large and central part of the national economy at stake, the overriding perspective must be assurance that historic trends are flexibly and realistically served even if particular corporate interests are not fully served and even if traditional party shibboleths are not afforded traditional genuflection.
Viewed from that perspective, etch a sketch legislation is not an expression of objectivity but of national hubris that whatever Americans do damn well will work (a philosophy which has not always worked that well in energy policy before, if the truth be told). One can only hope that as our national capito l regains its sanity, it brings to the energy debate more of the sense that the nations bedrock is at stake than at times has characterized its approach to the debate of national governance.
Etch-a-sketch is for kids; slogans and ideologies are for comic books we are in the age where realistic futures simulation is possible. All we should leave to the market is sophisticated smoothing of the near term uncertainties that remain after clear cut and enforceable rules are established. Dilbert, give the man an Apple.
ROGER FELDMAN, Co-Chair of Andrews Kurth LLP Climate Change and Carbon Markets Group has practiced law related to the finance of environmental and energy projects and companies for 40 years. In particular, he has analyzed and executed a wide variety and substantial value of project financings. He chairs the American Bar Association’s Committee on Carbon Trading and Finance, serves on the Board of the American Council for Renewable Energy, and has been a senior official in the Federal Energy Administration. He is a graduate of Brown University, Yale Law School and Harvard Business School.