Measure Will Prolong America's Dangerous Dependence on Oil

WASHINGTON (June 23, 2005) -- With its energy legislation on the verge of passage it's safe to say that this time around the Senate has acted rapidly, if not responsibly. Despite the best efforts of some Senators on both sides, the legislation simply doesn't address energy security. We all know that President Bush is demanding an energy bill; he ought to send this one back.

The Senate bill takes a few small but important steps on energy efficiency and renewable energy. But overall the bill will prolong our oil dependence. This begs the question: How can Congress choose drilling our coasts and wildlands, yet deny us cars, trucks and SUVs that go farther on a gallon of gas? The Senate bill also won't lower gas prices a bit or stop global warming.

"Congress blew a great opportunity to invest in technologies that would reduce our dependence on oil," said Karen Wayland, legislative director for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "The Senate bill is marginally better than the House bill, but we can't afford to be playing on the margins."

Missed opportunities in the energy bill include: Failing to increase fuel efficiency standards for automobiles; failing to establish mandatory limits on carbon dioxide pollution; and failing to enact a measure that could result in significant oil savings.

Below is NRDC's quick assessment of the Senate energy bill -- the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good

  • Establishes "renewable electricity standard," which would dramatically advance wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources.
  • Creates tax incentives for energy-efficient buildings and appliances.
  • Offers a tax credit for buying hybrid cars.
  • Acknowledges the need to establish mandatory cuts in global warming pollution.

The Bad

  • Adopts a do-nothing "voluntary" program to reduce global warming pollution.
  • Limits states' rights in federal decisions on siting liquefied natural gas.
  • Curtails citizen input concerning re-licensing of hydropower facilities (dams).
  • Requires the use of at least 8 billion gallons of renewable fuels (ethanol) per year by 2012 but without safeguards to prevent increased air pollution.

The Ugly

  • Rewards oil and gas companies with $2.3 billion in tax breaks, despite the energy industry's record profits.
  • Gives away $6 billion in tax dollars to the nuclear power industry, which is already heavily subsidized (to the tune of $80 billion).
  • Opens the door to offshore oil and gas drilling by authorizing a "seismic inventory" of all coastal areas, using explosive blasts that have proven harmful to whales, dolphins and other marine wildlife.