Energy solutions, not pollution

CALPIRG energy advocate (916) 448-4516

We have a rare opportunity to move our country ahead toward a new energy future. As the U.S. Senate develops energy legislation, it should embrace policies that protect the environment and clean the air, while making us more energy efficient, promoting clean and renewable energy sources, and protecting consumers from the wild price fluctuations in our current energy markets.

Unfortunately, the energy plan passed by the House of Representatives in August is good for polluters, but bad for consumers and the environment. The plan repeats the same pattern of dirty energy dependence that has led us to where we are today—fluctuating gas prices and global warming pollution.

Arguing that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the House energy plan allows oil and gas drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which the U.S. Geological Survey estimates contains only a six-month supply of oil which industry says would not reach us for 10 years. In contrast, the House in August rejected an amendment to increase fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks, which would have conserved 1 million barrels of oil per day—more than twice the maximum daily yield from the Arctic Refuge.

The House plan also benefits polluters at taxpayers’ expense. Wooed by $2.5 million in campaign contributions from big oil, coal, nuclear and auto industries in the 2000 election cycle, the House passed an energy bill that includes $38 billion in budget-busting subsidies over 10 years to these polluters while offering minimal incentives for energy efficiency and renewables.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is considering rolling back a key enforcement mechanism of the Clean Air Act called New Source Review, which cleans up some of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants.

The energy debate will soon reach a pivotal point on the Senate floor. At this crossroads, the Senate will have to ask the difficult questions that the House energy legislation failed to answer. Do we continue down the path of exploitation of dirty, unsustainable fossil fuels and nuclear power? Or do we choose an entirely different path toward clean and renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and strong pollution controls for power plants?

Our Senators Boxer and Feinstein should support cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions. Specifically, the Senate should support proposals to prohibit oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and on public lands, increase miles-per-gallon standards, end taxpayer subsidies for polluters, require significant energy production from renewable energy sources, and clean up the nation’s oldest and dirtiest power plants. By taking these steps, we can achieve a new, cleaner and safer energy future.