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Energy Bill Stuffed with Fossil Fuel Industry Subsidies -- Warming Continues

by Michael T. Neuman Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003 at 5:23 AM

Despite not being afforded the benefit of a public hearing, the massive .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

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


The energy bill continues to exempt airline companies from paying fuel

taxes, and it pays .4 billion over ten years directly to the coffers of

the fossil fuel industries, with another .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


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


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

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.

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