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Inside NRDC

DISPATCHES
Exxpose Exxon

Photo of an oil-covered loonHey, Exxon: It's time to make amends. Stop spending millions to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming. (Remember the tobacco industry? It denied cigarettes cause lung cancer.) Stop lobbying to desecrate one of America's great wilderness sanctuaries -- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And, while we're at it, honor your promises to clean up the giant mess you made back in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coastline. Just to make sure the corporation's chiefs hear us loud and clear, NRDC has joined a coalition of 12 public interest and environmental groups, including the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Sierra Club, to pressure ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest and most profitable oil companies, to change its planet-destroying behavior. Americans who want ExxonMobil to start taking global warming seriously and to face up to its moral responsibilities can show their support for the campaign by refusing to invest in or purchase gas and other products sold by ExxonMobil. Visit www.exxposeexxon.com to learn how to help.



Paper Trail

Photo of a forestAlmost one quarter of the world's paper is produced in the southeast United States. On the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, one paper company -- Bowater -- owns more land and manufactures more newsprint than any other concern in the region. Now, a historic agreement among Bowater, NRDC, and the Dogwood Alliance, a local environmental group, will end the company's practice of clearcutting native hardwood forests and replacing them with biologically impoverished pine plantations, which compromises the essential ecological services that forests provide, such as habitat for rare and endangered species, clean water, and global climate stabilization. After lengthy negotiations, Bowater pledged to end these destructive practices and to look for opportunities to increase its use of recycled material. Not only is the agreement good for southeastern forests, it's also good for the planet: Producing newsprint from recycled pulp emits 47 percent fewer greenhouse gases than making it from freshly cut trees.



Reality Check

Responding, finally, to the increasingly evident global warming threat, the Senate on June 22 passed a resolution, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, calling for Congress to enact a "comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions." For years, the Bush administration and the energy industry have claimed that the Senate opposes mandatory action on global warming, but that's changed now. Several influential senators who had opposed previous efforts to limit global warming pollution voted to support the resolution, including Republicans Peter Domenici, Arlen Specter, and John Warner and Democrat Robert Byrd. The attraction of the resolution was its simplicity. The Senate did not spell out specific policies -- an approach NRDC advocated in the belief that the most critical first step was to form a consensus that something meaningful must be done. "The next challenge is to build on this momentum to enact concrete limits on heat-trapping pollution," says David Doniger, policy director of NRDC's Climate Center.



States' Rights

While Congress and the Bush administration continue to ignore the nation's most pressing energy needs, almost half of the states in the union, from California to New York, from Washington to New Jersey, have adopted standards for increasing the use of renewable energy. New York is the latest of 19 states to do so, and aims to increase the amount of renewable energy used statewide to 25 percent by 2013. Only California, the nation's leader in forward-thinking energy policy, has set goals that will produce more renewable energy. (By contrast, the energy bill passed by Congress in late July included no renewable goals whatsoever.) Colorado and Delaware adopted higher standards this past summer, and NRDC expects that others will follow suit over the next several years now that federal regulation of carbon emissions appears inevitable. "Ramping up the use of renewable energy now will make it easier to set limits for carbon emissions down the road," says Kit Kennedy, an NRDC senior attorney who helped craft New York's policy. "And investing in homegrown renewables creates jobs and reduces our dependence on foreign oil."


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Washington Watch
Washington Watch

"'Tis known by the name of perseverance in a good cause -- and of obstinacy in a bad one."
-- Laurence Sterne

Senate Fouls Out on Energy

The energy bill passed by the Senate in late July is abysmal: billions of dollars in subsidies for the oil, gas, and nuclear industries; exemptions from clean water laws for oil and gas companies; no renewable energy requirements on a national level; quick-and-easy permits for drilling on public lands. There are, at least, a few things to be grateful for. Congress dropped liability waivers for the toxic gasoline additive MTBE, which has polluted drinking water in at least 29 states, and consumers who buy energy-saving appliances will get a tax credit worth up to 10 percent of the price of the appliance. Major manufacturers including Whirlpool Corp. and General Electric Co. are rolling out more efficient refrigerators and dish- and clothes-washers to meet the expected rise in demand. The Senate dropped the provisions from the House energy bill that would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although they're still present in the FY2006 budget. The final decision will be made this fall when Congress is back in session and begins the budget reconciliation process. That means there's still time to tell your senators not to allow drilling in America's premier wildlife sanctuary: www.savebiogems.org/ arctic.

Also this fall, look for Congress to take up other missed opportunities on energy issues from global warming to oil independence. In response to the global warming resolution passed by the Senate in June (see "Reality Check," opposite), Congress has scheduled hearings on climate change with the intent to establish mandatory limits to greenhouse gas emissions; NRDC will be there to push for strong caps on carbon emissions. We're also working with Congress to extend the energy efficiency tax credits beyond the two-year period stipulated in the energy bill.



To take action online on these and other environmental issues, visit NRDC's Earth Action Center.



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Photos: top, image courtesy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trust Council; bottom, Pat and Chuck Blackley
Illustration: Tina Fong

OnEarth. Fall 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council