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Statement by David G. Hawkins, director of NRDC's Climate Center, Critiquing Bush Energy Plan and Offering Responsible Alternative
WASHINGTON (May 17, 2001) - The Bush-Cheney energy show had its Broadway opening last night and the reviews are not good. The script, approved by producers Bush and Cheney, is a rehash of a tired tale. Here's the storyline: "America is running out of energy. Big oil, coal, and electric companies need our help to save the day. To solve our problems we have to dig, drill, and burn faster than ever. That means we have to drill in wildlife refuges, drill off our beaches and breathe more air pollution."
The producers, stung by criticism of early tryouts, wrote some new characters into their script -- the popular efficiency and renewables brothers -- but they are given only bit parts. The plot is still dominated by the old stock characters: coal, oil, big power generators and gas-guzzling vehicles, and their lines still determine the outcome of the story -- more pollution and destruction of America's remaining unspoiled places. Big energy industries invested millions to get this show launched. But it's destined to be a flop because the producers ignored the oldest rule in theater -- don't let the investors write the script or star in the show.
Now, back to reality. The administration claims its plan is balanced; it's not. Look at its features:
- A $2 billion subsidy program for the world's dirtiest fuel -- coal. Coal producers and coal-burning utilities are earning record profits. They don't need $2 billion from taxpayers to run their business. The best way to improve this industry's environmental performance is to enforce current pollution laws and enact strong new laws. The Bush plan interferes with law enforcement and offers only a vague incomplete promise for a new pollution law.
- Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This proposal has nothing to do with energy security and everything to do with keeping the cash flowing for the owners of the existing pipeline in Alaska. If you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. The Trans-Alaska pipeline is the oil companies' hammer and they want to use it to nail the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
- Rollback of key clean air rules. The plan pressures the attorney general to stop enforcing air pollution cleanup cases and pressures EPA to change the rules to allow more pollution from refineries and coal-fired power plants. These proposals would mean more disease and death by air pollution from these already dirty sources.
- Increased reliance on fossil fuels with no attempt to limit global warming pollution. Ignoring our commitments to reduce global warming pollution from today's levels, the plan would actually increase this pollution by 35 percent over the next 20 years.
- The efficiency and renewable programs that are in the plan are so limited and vague that they do not alter the enormous business-as-usual growth in polluting energy sources over the next 20 years.
And look at what is not in the plan:
- No support for bipartisan bills that would immediately help cut electricity and natural gas consumption from the buildings sector with tax incentives and performance standards.
- No support for bipartisan bills to create a renewable portfolio standard and public benefits fund for the electricity industry.
- No commitment to raise fuel economy standards from vehicles, even from the most gas-guzzling SUVs on the road. Acting now to adopt better standards would save more oil than the Arctic Refuge ever could provide.
- No commitment to undo the disastrous budget cuts in the Energy Department's successful efficiency and renewable energy programs.
- No commitment to undo the indefensible weakening of air conditioner efficiency standards. This single weakening action will cost consumers $18 billion on their energy bills over the next 25 years.
Fortunately the American people are not a captive audience to this show. We can walk out and send the producers back to work on something that will give us what we need: smarter, cleaner and faster ways to meet our energy needs.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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