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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 9, 2005
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ENERGY BILL: HASTE MAKES A WASTED OPPORTUNITY
"I think the standard by which Congress should be judged is whether or not they can get an energy bill."
At this critical moment for our economy and security, we need a new energy direction -- everyone knows it.
Even President Bush, Tom DeLay and others in Congress are saying all the right things -- calling for more conservation, newer technologies, cheaper energy costs and greater energy independence. But it's not enough to talk about saving oil while ignoring common-sense measures that actually would reduce our oil dependence. Nor is it acceptable to talk about investing in clean energy while handing out billions of our tax dollars to oil, gas and other companies that are reaping record profits at our expense. This approach won't make us more secure or generate jobs or lower gas prices a bit -- and they know it.
Yet that didn't stop the U.S. House of Representatives from recently passing energy legislation that would do nothing to reduce America's dependence on oil or save consumers money at the pump. Next week the Senate will begin its own energy debate, with the goal of passing a bill by the end of the month. Rather than judging Congress on whether or not it delivers an energy bill by the president's arbitrary deadline (August recess), shouldn't this legislation be judged on whether it truly meets America's energy needs?
The bill must be measured by whether it answers these questions: Will it bolster our energy security or leave us dangerously dependent on oil? Will it invest in clean energy alternatives or waste subsidies on fossil fuels and nuclear power? Will it relieve high prices for consumers or reward the richest energy companies? Will it safeguard our health or pollute our environment?
In the end, it really won't matter if the Senate passes an energy bill that is marginally better than the one passed by the House. Why are we playing on the margins? Neither bill, so far, comes close to taking us where we need to go. Period.
Too Late For Too Little Oil
Experts agree that we must reduce oil demand and that no amount of drilling is going to help us do that. Says Dave Houseknecth, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey: "If the nation continues to increase its oil consumption, we are going to continue to need imported oil, and increasing amounts of imported oil, regardless of what we do domestically." (Washington Post, June 7, 2005)
With less than 2 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, the United States relies on foreign countries to supply 58 percent of our oil, according to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA). That number is forecasted to climb to 68 percent in another two decades.
To focus primarily on boosting domestic energy production without reducing demand is to ensure that our oil dependency will continue to grow. (According to EIA's analysis of the House energy bill, for example, U.S. oil imports would increase by 85 percent by 2025.) That approach not only threatens public health and the environment here at home, but also poses a direct risk to our national security. Our continued reliance on foreign oil, largely from unstable regions of the world, means that we will keep sending billions more of our dollars to regimes that fund terrorists who hate America. (Details available at www.SetAmericaFree.org, as well as in recent Time magazine coverage.)
So why should we let industry wreck our coasts or ruin our wildlands when drilling everywhere won't make us any safer? Why won't Congress support making our cars go farther on a gallon of gas, a sure-fire way to ease our gas crunch? Why won't the president put our money where his mouth is by investing in technologies to improve energy efficiency and expand alternative energy?
A Real Energy Plan
Current energy legislation is a sham masquerading as a plan. What America needs is an energy policy that does the following:
- Requires oil savings of 2.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2015
- Sets standards for energy-saving technologies everywhere
- Accelerates increases in renewable energy supplies
- Cuts global warming pollution
The most important actions Congress can take to reduce our oil dependence are to adopt an enforceable oil savings plan for cars and light trucks, helping automakers retool factories to build hybrids and other fuel-efficient technologies and using fuels made from crops grown by American farmers.
The fastest, cleanest, cheapest way to curb our growing energy demand and cut global warming pollution is to reduce energy consumption through better products like energy efficient appliances, buildings, equipment and automobiles -- getting more productivity using less energy. Thanks to readily available technology, America can achieve dramatic energy savings while enhancing comfort and profits. The direct economic benefits of investing in efficiency measures typically outweigh costs by a ratio of 2 to 1. The indirect benefits may be 10 times as big. And the incentive to innovate helps American companies to be the world's leaders in the global marketplace.
It is long past time to develop clean energy electricity technologies such as wind, solar and alternative fuels from crops. In order to ensure that all Americans can benefit from these home-grown resources, Congress should pass a renewable fuels standard (RFS) -- one that safeguards air quality -- and a federal renewables portfolio standard (RPS) that requires at least 10 percent of electricity to come from clean energy resources by 2020. Congress also should extend the renewable-energy production tax credit to keep renewables on their continued march to cost competitiveness. After five years, wind and geothermal power no longer will need tax incentives to compete in the marketplace.
A national commitment to cut global warming pollution -- especially carbon dioxide -- would spur even greater investment in efficiency and renewable energy solutions. Those commitments and investments are already being made in other countries, giving them the edge on us by patenting the technologies of the 21st century. We have the know-how to fix this problem. What's missing is the political leadership to make it happen.
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 1 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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