Home / Resources / Call Your Senators to Support Conservation Measures in Energy Bill: 3/6/02

Call Your Senators to Support Conservation Measures in Energy Bill: 3/6/02

CALL YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT CONSERVATION MEASURES IN ENERGY BILL Action Needed to Reduce U.S. Reliance on Mid East Oil; Improve Air Quality; Address Global Warming; and Preserve Ecologically Sensitive Public Lands  (03/06/02) BACKGROUND The Senate began debate yesterday on a comprehensive energy bill which is vital both to environmental protection and national security. Two of the most urgent and historic challenges we face as a nation are inextricably related to our national energy policy –terrorism supported by nations that supply our oil (including Iraq) and global climate change caused largely by burning oil and other fossil fuels. The U.S. urgently needs to be more energy independent, and we need to accomplish that in a way that reduces our use of polluting fossil fuels. Before the Senate are several basic choices which will affect the direction of our nation’s energy policy for the next generation:
    • raising fuel economy standards (CAFE standards), which are now at their lowest level since 1980!
    • investing in clean and renewable energy and transportation technologies
Senators John Kerry (MA) and Ernest Hollings (SC) will be offering an amendment to set one CAFE standard for all passenger vehicles and increase it to 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2013. Current standards are 27.5 mpg for cars and 20.5 mpg for SUVs, minivans, and light trucks. Communicating via telephone directly to your senators this week is critical . If we lose on the issue of CAFE standards, it would be a terrible missed opportunity. Our nation, our children and our planet cannot afford to lose this one – and we will only win with considerable grassroots pressure. We have a big fight on our hands. Because of the recent anthrax scares, impediments to mail delivery on Capitol Hill still exist. Hill staffers tell us that e-mail and fax delivery are noticed, but do not carry the same weight that personal telephone calls carry. Senators are getting a large volume of calls from our opponents— we need you to counter this imbalance and to make our message heard. ACTION REQUESTED Please take five minutes of your time today and call both of your senators’ offices in Washington, DC. – and ask everyone you know to do the same. Communicate the following: 1) State your affiliation (your congregation, COEJL affiliate, etc.) and that you are an active member of the Jewish community who is concerned about US dependence on oil from the Middle East and the pollution caused by our energy use. 2) You support the greatest feasible increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the establishment of a single standard for all passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, minivans, and light trucks. Specifically, you support the Kerry-Hollings proposal to increase CAFE standards to 35mpg by 2013. You oppose leaving fuel economy standards to the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 3) You support tax incentives for consumers to purchase hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in research to develop clean and efficient transportation and energy technologies. 4) You would like to know where your senator currently stands on CAFE standards and will be watching his/her vote in the coming weeks. CALL 202–224–3121 AND ASK TO BE CONNECTED WITH YOUR SENATOR’S OFFICE. Background information and specific points for individual senators also follow. Many thanks for your important efforts! BACKGROUND: There are several parts of the bill that will have a major impact– for better or for worse– on air quality, energy independence and global warming. The energy bill passed by the House last year was very poor for the environment. It does not increase the standards for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), the average gas mileage for vehicles. It would allow drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It would provide far greater subsidies for the oil and coal industries than for the development of clean and renewable energy technologies. It would not meaningfully decrease our dependence on imported oil. It is therefore up to the Senate to improve this legislation! Senators will cast critical votes on this bill and proposed amendments. Although the auto manufacturers and some of organized labor oppose increasing CAFE standards, it is clear that such a move will decrease our dependence on foreign oil, help the environment,– and create jobs! In fact, several unions have come out in support of the increased standards. Some Senators opposed to increasing the gas mileage standards are proposing an “alternative” which will allow the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to rule on the issue. NHTSA has a poor track record on fuel standards, and this is a covert way to weaken the standards while appearing to do something positive. COEJL and other national Jewish and Christian organizations have sent letters to the Senators urging pro-environment votes on the energy bill. Yesterday, COEJL sent a follow-up letter to Senators signed by leaders of the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist movements, as well as the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, and JPCA, which says: “[W]e, the undersigned representatives of major Jewish organizations, urge you to support the greatest feasible increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the establishment of a single standard for all passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, minivans, and light trucks. We also urge you to support tax incentives for consumers to purchase hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in research to develop clean and efficient transportation technologies. . . . with only 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, America cannot significantly reduce its dependence on foreign oil through domestic production alone. We must therefore substantially reduce our consumption of oil, a majority of which is used for vehicles in the U.S.” See below for the full text of the letter. General Information on CAFE Standards, jobs, and the auto industry: In a recent study, the National Academy of Sciences concluded the following: General economic conditions, and especially the globalization of the automobile industry, seem to have been far more important than fuel economy regulations in determining the profitability and employment shares of the domestic automakers and their competitors. (NAS CAFE report, p. 22) The NAS reported that United Auto Workers, who work primarily at Big 3 facilities, lost nearly half its members in auto manufacturing, dropping from 1.4 million in 1980 to 670,000 in 2000. However, the NAS does not point to CAFE as the cause. Instead, the NAS concluded that the “roots of this shift include domestic manufacturers loss of market share to foreign manufacturers, improved productivity in their own plants, and shift in production overseas.” (NAS CAFE report, p. 22) Auto Employment Increased After Last CAFE : Once CAFE standards took full effect in the early 1980’s auto manufacturing employment increased – from 650,000 workers in 1982 to more than 800,000 in 1985. Total employment in automobile manufacturing in the United States topped 1 million workers in 1999 – its highest level ever. (Wards Automotive Report). Foreign Automakers Prove High Mileage Cars, Trucks and SUVs Create Jobs: Foreign automakers that produce higher-mileage cars, trucks and SUVs have built 13 new plants in the United States and now employ 46,000 American workers. (Association of International Automobile Manufacturers) Meanwhile, American automakers that produce lower mileage cars and trucks in the exact same classes are cutting American jobs and moving their production lines to foreign countries. Full text of the coalition letter sent on March 5 to the Senate: COALITION ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND JEWISH LIFE March 5, 2002 Dear Senator: As the Senate considers energy legislation, we, the undersigned representatives of major Jewish organizations, urge you to support the greatest feasible increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and the establishment of a single standard for all passenger vehicles, including cars, SUVs, minivans, and light trucks. We also urge you to support tax incentives for consumers to purchase hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in research to develop clean and efficient transportation technologies. As the tragic events of September 11 have reminded us so powerfully, heavy reliance on oil from the Middle East does not serve our national interests. Yet, with only 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, America cannot significantly reduce its dependence on foreign oil through domestic production alone. We must therefore substantially reduce our consumption of oil, a majority of which is used for vehicles in the U.S. CAFE standards enabled the U.S. to reduce imports from the Persian Gulf by 88 percent between 1979 and 1985 (Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2000). Conserving oil at the same rate through 1986 would have eliminated U.S. need for Persian Gulf oil. Yet today, the average fuel economy of American vehicles is at its lowest point since 1980, and we are importing more oil than ever from the Persian Gulf. In addition to the security concerns of oil dependence, we are also concerned about global climate change, which threatens both ecological stability and the well-being and stability of affected nations. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is responsible for more than 20 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing vehicle fuel economy would be a major step in reducing these emissions. Japanese manufacturers are already aggressively producing and marketing hybrid-electric cars that can travel up to 65 miles on a gallon of gas, and fuel cells promise even greater efficiency in the future. America stands to benefit greatly by leading the development and marketing of highly efficient vehicles. Substantially increasing CAFE standards over a reasonable period of time would give industry a direct incentive. For all of these reasons, we urge you to support the greatest feasible increase in fuel economy standards and other measures to bring affordable, highly efficient, low emissions vehicles to market and dramatically reduce U.S. reliance on oil. Thank you for consideration of our views. Sincerely, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE David A. Harris, Executive Director COALITION ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND JEWISH LIFE Sharon Bloome, Chair HADASSAH: THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA Bonnie Lipton, President JEWISH COUNCIL FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS Michael Bohnen, Chair JEWISH RECONSTRUCTIONIST FEDERATION Dan Cedarbaum, Vice President RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM Rabbi David Saperstein, Director UNION OF AMERICAN HEBREW CONGREGATIONS Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS OF AMERICA Dr. Harvey Blitz, President UNITED SYNAGOGUE OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM Judy Yudof, President

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