WASHINGTON (April 27, 2005) -- Measures announced today by the White House to address the nation's energy situation would do almost nothing to attack the core issues of high oil prices or tight global supplies, even if they were added to the controversial energy bill passed last week by the House of Representatives. The only real way to fix the oil problem, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), is to reduce our dependence by increasing the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, and investing in clean, home-grown energy sources.
The House bill -- for which the president lobbied aggressively -- contains more than $8 billion in subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear energy but does nothing to boost fuel efficiency or transition us to renewable domestic sources. In fact, by extending a critical loophole in fuel economy rules, the bill would actually increase oil demand by more than a billion gallons a year.
"The president can't claim to be for energy savings and the House bill at the same time," said NRDC Legislative Director Karen Wayland. The president did repeat a longstanding call for consumer tax credits on fuel-efficient hybrid cars (adding diesel vehicles to the list), which was stripped from his proposal in the House. Such a measure would be a small step to expand the market for advanced technology vehicles, said NRDC, but not nearly enough on its own to significantly reduce our overall oil dependence.
"The way to protect consumers and reduce the threat to our economy is reduce our need for oil, period," said Dr. Daniel A. Lashof, an NRDC senior scientist. "We have the technology to reduce oil demand by 2.5 million barrels per day. But we're not getting the leadership we need to make it happen."
Tax credits for fuel efficient vehicle purchasers are a fine first step, said Lashof, but without a strategy to increase fuel efficiency they will not deliver the oil savings we need.
The president's proposal to build oil refineries on old military bases ignores the fundamental forces that have driven the price of crude oil -- the refinery feedstock -- to more than $50 per barrel. Rising pump prices have far more to do with soaring global demand for oil outstripping new supplies. Moreover, U.S. refining capacity has increased 11 percent over the last 10 years by expanding output at existing facilities.
His proposal for taxpayers to cover the cost of delays in nuclear plant licensing is equally misguided, according to NRDC. Under the president's plan, if a utility proposes an unsafe plant design and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission delays its approval, the utility would be compensated with public money.
NRDC is a member of the Set America Free Coalition, organized by conservative defense and national security leaders who agree on the urgent need to reduce the demand for oil, and have drafted a plan to get us there. (See www.setamericafree.org.)