Energy Legislation in House Flawed in Fundamental Ways — Please Contact Your Representative
The House of Representatives is expected to begin floor debate of a major energy bill the week of July 30. The bill favors oil, coal, and nuclear energy, and will not lead us in the direction of creating a clean and sustainable energy system in the US. The bill would allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), would increase tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, and would do nothing to address global climate change. It offers a tiny increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFE), the most effective way both to reduce our dependence on imported oil, to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, and to reduce the effects of high gasoline prices on consumers. Vehicle fuel economy is now at it lowest level since 1980 (largely because SUVs do not have to meet the same standards as cars), despite existing technologies which could achieve significantly more vehicle miles per gallon of fuel for all vehicles.
The debate next week will be the most important environmental debate in Congress in many years. It is vital that we succeed in either dramatically improving this bill or in defeating it.
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Please fax and / or call your Representative with the message below – and preferably no later than Tuesday, July 31. The Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected with the office of your representative.
- Please also send a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper(s). Congressional offices read these letters as a barometer of community opinions. A sample is provided at the end of this action alert.
- Forward this action alert to appropriate contacts.
SAMPLE LETTER TO US REPRESENTATIVE
The Honorable ____________
US House of Representatives
Dear Representative ____________:
I am writing to express concern about the omnibus energy legislation coming before the House of Representatives for debate. The energy package as now constituted is not a balanced plan. It does not reflect our obligations to protect the environment and human health, nor is it economically prudent.
Earlier this year, senior religious leaders from 42 major religious institutions signed an Open Letter to the President, the Congress, and the American People on Energy Conservation and God’s Creation. It reflects the basic values that ought to be applied to our decisions regarding energy policy – values such as stewardship, intergenerational responsibility, justice, prudence, and solidarity. These values are rooted in my Jewish tradition.
Based on these values, I urge you to support the following improvements in the bill:
- Replace the tiny increase of CAFE standards now in the bill with a significant increase and close the SUV loophole.
- Remove the provision to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Significantly increase incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency, and remove subsidies for oil, coal, and nuclear energy.
If all of these improvements in the legislation are not made, I urge you not to support it.
Now is the time to set a new and positive direction for American energy policy, one that will lead our nation in a transition from an energy system that harms human health, causes global warming, degrades land and marine ecosystems, and pollutes the earth to an energy system that provides clean, renewable, and reliable energy that does not threaten human health or the environment. That future is within our grasp. Not to reach for it would be a gross abdication of our moral responsibility.
Thank you for your consideration of my views.
Your organizational or congregational affiliation if you have one
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND / TALKING POINTS
The Jewish community has been advocating essentially the same positions on energy policy for the more than 20 years – reducing dependence on fossil fuels and moving toward clean and renewable energy supplies and technologies. This was originally motivated by a concern about US dependence on Arab oil producing nations, and was quickly complemented by a concern that we achieve increased energy independence in an environmentally responsible way.
What has changed is that we continue to learn—through scientific discovery—additional reasons why reducing use of fossil fuels is the best energy policy. Since the 1970s, we have learned about the relationship between burning fossil fuels and acid rain, urban air pollution, respiratory disease, destruction of rare habitats, and, most recently, global climate change. In both 2000 and 2001, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (through which COEJL adopts it policy positions) adopted resolutions calling for a national energy policy that would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and protect public lands. All of the following specific measures / issues here have been addressed in these JCPA resolutions or earlier policy statements.
- CAFE standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) is the most effective step we can take to help consumers with energy costs, reduce our reliance on imported oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The press has reported that the National Academy of Sciences report on CAFE requested by the Congress last year shows that a significant increase – 10 miles per gallon – in CAFE standards is both possible and desirable. An increase in CAFE standards will also have a positive effect on the economy, stimulating innovation and increasing competitiveness. It is simply not right to do what we know we can to help people and protect creation.
- Drilling in ANWR – We cannot meaningfully reduce our dependence on imported oil by drilling – we simply do not have the reserves. The US has only 3% of world proven oil reserves. Nor can we depend upon expanded supply of oil to meet our energy needs in the future. Reducing our use of oil is the only way to accomplish these objectives – and we have the technology to do so. Drilling in ANWR only delays the day when we must reduce our use of oil, and it would unnecessarily harm a unique ecosystem and already threatened species.
- Tax credits – The bill provides $33.5 billion over 10 years in tax breaks. At least 75 percent, or $25.2 billion, are for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. This is even more than President Bush has proposed in his energy plan. We have an obligation to our children and to our Creator to invest in a clean energy future. Investments in energy efficiency and renewable over the past 10 years have yielded strong results according to a recent Department of Energy study. Oil and coal companies do not need assistance from US taxpayers – oil companies have reported record profits in recent quarters, and power plant construction is at an all time high as a result of market demands. There are no significant downsides to an energy policy focused on conservation and new, cleaner technologies. Public health will benefit. The environment will benefit. Consumers will benefit. Innovative businesses will benefit. And national security will be enhanced.
- Global climate change: President Bush has withdrawn US participation in the global effort to address this issue, the Kyoto Protocol. There is a world-wide scientific consensus that global climate change is happening, and is likely to cause much harm to both people and ecosystems in the future – particularly to poorer nations. , According to the latest reports, warming is happening at a faster rate than previously anticipated – we may see the earth warm by as much as 10* F by 2100. The primary cause of the warming is the burning of fossil fuels. The US, with only 5% of the world’s population, creates 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We have a moral obligations to reduce our emissions. Only the Congress can move this agenda forward – therefore reducing dependence on fossil fuel must be a central goal of any comprehensive energy legislation.
SAMPLE LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Via fax / Address
The energy package coming before the House of Representatives (PUT HEADLINE AND DATE OF ARTICLE ON THE ISSUE HERE) is not a balanced plan. It does not reflect our obligations to protect creation and human health, nor is it economically prudent.
Stewardship, intergenerational responsibility, and justice – basic values which many Americans find in our religious traditions – should guide our decisions on such important matters. A morally responsible energy plan would lead our nation in a transition from an energy system that harms human health, causes global warming, degrades land and marine ecosystems, and pollutes the earth to an energy system that provides clean, renewable, and reliable energy that does not threaten human health or the environment.
The President seeks to continue to reward the oil, coal, and nuclear industries that are harming our health and environment. And he has pulled the US out of Kyoto Protocol. It is now up to Congress to provide leadership on addressing energy and climate issues.
Any sound energy plan must significantly increase fuel economy standards and close the SUV loophole; significantly increase incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency and remove subsidies for oil, coal, and nuclear energy; and protect wild ecosystems such as the the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development.
Your organzational or congregational affiliation if you have one
Your daytime telephone number