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U.S. Energy Bill Stuffed with Fossil Fuel Industry Subsidies; Warming Continues

Michael T. Neuman | 21.11.2003 15:20 | Bush 2003 | Anti-militarism | Ecology | Health | London | World

Despite not being afforded the benefit of a public hearing, the massive $31.1 billion energy bill being debated in the U.S. Senate today has garnered massive public opposition, and with good reason. Call your senators today. Tell them which way you recommend they vote.

Over the last three years, big energy companies have contributed nearly $70 million to lawmakers in hopes of passing the energy bill hatched by Vice-President Cheney, ExxonMobil, Enron and others.

Last weekend, House and Senate leaders showed where their allegiance stands when they announced a joint bill containing billions in tax breaks and subsidies for oil, coal, gas, and nuclear production, but little leadership on energy security, reducing air pollution, confronting global warming's causes and the economic and environmental sustainability of the nation and the world as a whole.

Last month, the Senate as a whole failed to pass the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, leaving every community and state in the nation and world increasingly vulnerable to the projected devastating climatic consequences of abrupt climate change brought about by rising greenhouse gas accumulations from the United States. Subsequently, the climate stewardship bill was sent back to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works for further consideration.

Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved the energy bill, leaving only a vote in the Senate between Congress going back and drawing up a publicly reviewable and acceptable energy bill, and the prospect of higher budget deficits, more air pollution, energy insecurity and the prospect of an increasingly inhospitable, havoc wreaking and deadly climate, growing more and more threatening by each passing year.

Fortunately, several Democratic and Republican Senators, including John McCain, Charles Schumer, and Robert Byrd, have announced their support for a filibuster, which would send the bill back to Congress for the preparation of a better and more socially responsible energy plan. They'll need 41 votes in the Senate in support of the filibuster. If they don't succeed, the first energy bill in 11 years will be in the president's hands as early as next week. President Bush() is reportedly eager to sign it.

The energy bill not only continues but greatly increases the already huge federal subsidies for big oil companies to pump more oil and gas, and the utility companies to burn more coal. Yet it contains absolutely no controls over the source of our rapidly increasing global temperatures -- the ever increasing accumulations of greenhouse gas quantities in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning, more from the United States than from any other country.

The energy bill continues to exempt airline companies from paying fuel taxes, and it pays $5.4 billion over ten years directly to the coffers of the fossil fuel industries, with another $25.7 going to energy industries in the form of tax exemptions.

All these actions will ultimately add to higher accumulated amounts of greenhouse "heat-capturing" gas volumes in the atmosphere, leading to more rapid temperature and humidity increases (warmer air holds more water), throughout much of the world. Climatologists have been recording average temperature increases throughout the world, especially in the more recent decades and years.

Last Friday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reported that globally averaged surface temperatures (of the earth's land and oceans) have been warmer than average for the 90th consecutive month (7 and 1/2 years straight); and that October's average combined land and ocean temperature of 1.27 degrees Fahrenheit over the 1880-2002 mean temperature was the warmest October since instrumental recording of the earth's surface temperatures began in 1880. Global warming, believed by the vast majority of climate scientists to be caused by the ever rising accumulations of heat-capturing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is now going strong, and is projected to speed up to faster levels of warming, with each passing year that nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels.

The large majority of the greenhouse gas volumes that have been piling up in the atmosphere in recent years have originated from the extensive amount of fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal) burning by humans, which began in earnest in the late 1800s, increasing almost geometrically throughout the 1900s and early 2000s, and reaching the present level of 375 parts per million (carbon dioxide only) -- 30% higher in concentration than existed at the onset of the Industrial Revolution. It is projected to double in the next several decades, and the energy bill will hasten that doubling.

But there are other elements of the energy bill that have long term negative environmental consequences as well. The bill lets the U.S. EPA extend the federal deadlines for polluted cities to clean up air quality (from fossil fuel burning and other pollution sources); furthermore, it let's energy companies off the hook for polluting America's ground water supplies with MTBE, a chemical additive to gasoline, and it leaves American electricity consumers increasingly vulnerable to future blackouts that might be expected from market manipulations, which will be much more likely if the energy bill passes.

Even worse still, the bill places other American non-fossil fuel related energy producing industries (solar, wind) at a huge competitive disadvantage against the fossil fuel industry investments and operations, because most of the federal subsidies are given only to the fossil fuel industries, not to the businesses that produce electricity from renewable power source that don't emit greenhouse gases or other pollutants (eg., solar and wind power sources). The upshot of the energy bill passing will be more fossil fuel burning, more greenhouse gases accumulating to dangerous levels of concentration in the atmosphere (some scientists say the atmosphere has already reached that level), and faster, irreversible global warming as the result.

Yet an additional risk of the energy bill being signed in law is that it could lead to a proliferation of nuclear power plants in the United States, it's subsidies to that industry include an exemption from being sued in the event there was a nuclear catastrophe with overwhelming long term destruction of property and human lives in America.

What the bill does NOT contain is also damning. The bill ignores the whole issue of fuel efficiency standards for automobiles entirely. It is devoid of providing any kind of direct positive financial incentives for consumers: (1) to use energy more efficiently in their homes, business and automobiles; (2) to conserve more energy by using practical conservation approaches that use less energy in homes, or result in less driving and flying -- two of the large sources of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. households. The bill also provides no additional incentives for American businesses and households to produce and use energy from renewable sources, encouragement that is absolutely imperative if the country is going to be a leading participant in the world's efforts to rid its human population of the albatross of global warming, that it has only now begun to realize that it has no choice but to confront, head on.

Please call your senator today and ask him/her to oppose this totally special interest Energy Bill, which will harm our country more than it will help it. Tell him or her the energy bill and the climate protection bill ought be developed in tandem, not separately, and that he should vote in favor of the filibuster so that that can be accomplished. While your at it, request that a new energy/climate protection bill be given the utmost priority, because the country and the world as a whole are losing ground, fast, on being able to do something in the future to turn back or slow global warming.

A phone call is the most helpful action you can take right now. Just call the capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and be automatically connected to your senator's office. (You may have to call twice to do that.) Do it now!

Tell your senator a successful energy policy would be one that: increases the nation's electrical grid's reliability; greatly reduces America's dependence on fossil fuel burning for energy (especially from the dirtier fuels -- oil and coal); greatly promotes wind, solar and other clean renewable energy sources for energy; greatly encourages energy efficiency, everywhere and by everybody (in the U.S.); and provides meaningful positive financial rewards for people who choose not to rely so heavily on motorized vehicles for getting around.



Washington, D.C., Nov. 19 - A group of religious organizations joined together this week to stand in strong opposition to the proposed Energy Policy Act of 2003 being considered in the Senate today. In a letter sent to Senators this morning (see below), a coalition of religious leaders including representatives from the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), spoke against the bill because it does not include higher fuel efficiency standards, a renewable portfolio standard, or any steps to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The group also opposes the provision in the bill to give massive subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries -- a move that they contend promotes further exploration over conservation.

"We hoped that Congress would adopt a national energy policy rooted in the core values of justice and sustainability," says John Hill, program director for environmental and economic justice for the United Methodist Church. "The energy bill fails to chart a bold path for the future and instead perpetuates the unjust and unsustainable practices of the past."

The interfaith letter was sent in response to House and Senate conference committee approval of a final version of the energy bill that includes $23 billion in tax incentives for industry. The measure, a top priority for President Bush, has already been approved by the House and is being debated in the Senate today.

"We believe the United States can and must meet the energy needs of the present without sacrificing environmental protection, despoiling pristine lands, and putting at risk the needs of future generations," says Hadar Susskind, the Washington representative for COEJL, which is based in New York. "People of faith have long recognized our responsibility as stewards of God's creation and the proposed energy legislation falls dangerously short of this responsibility."

Although the bill has already passed in the House, the religious groups have asked their constituents to call and fax their representatives in the Senate today to urge them to oppose the legislation.

Brethren Witness, Washington Office

Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

The Episcopal Church, USA

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Mennonite Central Committee, Washington Office

National Council of Churches

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Washington Office

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society

Media Contact: Cassandra Carmichael, 443.822.3720, Cassandra (at)

November 18, 2003

The United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

Earlier this year, representatives of the faith community wrote to you and urged adoption of a national energy policy rooted in the core values of justice and sustainability.

We continue to believe the United States can and must meet the energy needs of the present without sacrificing environmental protection, despoiling pristine lands, and putting at risk the needs of future generations. Unfortunately, the final conference agreement on HR 6, the Energy Policy Act of 2003, fails to chart a bold new path for the future and instead perpetuates the unjust and unsustainable practices of the past. We therefore urge you to oppose this legislation.

People of faith have long recognized our responsibility as stewards of God's creation. As individuals, congregations, and communities we are committed to pursuing God's vision of a restored creation. To do so requires a change in current patterns of behavior and a reordering of our priorities.

While we applaud the legislation's increased funding for renewable energy options, we remain alarmed at the unjust disparity between these provisions and the massive subsidies included for fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries. Likewise, we support the continued protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration, yet are concerned by provisions that could put at risk other sensitive ecosystems. Furthermore, the omission of higher fuel efficiency standards, a renewable portfolio standard, or any steps to curb US greenhouse gas emissions, represents a failure to address the present unsustainable patterns of energy usage.

While we are still sorting through many of the provisions buried in the 1000+ page bill, early reports have unearthed a number of industry-specific exemptions, liability shields and tax breaks. The sum total of these provisions, along with the delay in certain clean air act requirements, represents a perpetuation of a system that values exploration over conservation, industry protection over creation stewardship, and the present over future generations.

Now is a time for bold leadership. We therefore ask you to reject HR 6, the Energy Policy Act of 2003, and pursue instead new legislation fully incorporating our shared values of environmental justice, creation stewardship, and intergenerational responsibility.


Hadar Suskind
Washington Representative
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)

Phil L. Jones
Brethren Witness - Washington Office

Jim Winkler
General Secretary - General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Sonia Dueno
Coordinator - Washington Office on Vieques
Fellowship of Reconciliation

Robert Keithan
Director, Washington Office for Advocacy
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Rev. Dr. Pat Conover
Legislative Director
United Church of Christ - Justice and Witness Ministries

Danielle Welliever
Director for Environmental Education and Advocacy
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office

Maureen Shea
Director of Government Relations
The Episcopal Church, USA

Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Associate General Secretary for Public Policy
National Council of Churches

J. Daryl Byler
Director - Washington Office
Mennonite Central Committee, U.S.

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation


By: Associated Press

(Albuquerque-AP) -- The nation’s largest and oldest American Indian organization has asked the U.S. Senate to kill the massive energy bill.

The National Congress of American Indians is sending a letter to Washington to request that every senator vote against the measure in its current form.

The letter will accompany the group’s resolution against the bill.

A member of the Arctic Village Tribe in Alaska, Evon Peter, says the bill fails to pay enough attention to renewable energy resources.

Michael T. Neuman
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