Environmentalists support House energy bill
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08/01/07 Seán Kinane
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The House of Representatives will vote Friday on H.R. 3221, an energy bill that addresses global warming and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This morning, energy experts from scientific and environmental advocacy groups held a telephone media briefing on the bill. Karen Wayland, the legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, outlined the positive aspects of the bill and the negative things were left out of it.

“Energy efficiency standards for appliances, incentives to help deploy biofuels, to restoring balance on how we manage public lands, to make sure that oil and gas development is done in appropriate places with proper safeguards. Also, what’s not in the bill are things like subsidies and mandates for liquid coal.

"There are no environmental exemptions for oil and gas industry, in fact the bill rolls back some of those. There’s no drilling. So there’s a lot to like in the bill. In contrast to the energy bills of the last few years, we’ve identified only a handful of problematic provisions most notably some of the loan guarantee language for nuclear industry,” Wayland said.

Two possible amendments to the House energy bill could strengthen it even more. One would create a national renewable electricity standard. The other is the Markey-Platts bill, H.R. 1506, which would add strong vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, had this to say:

“The House has an historic opportunity to save oil, cut our addiction, cut global warming pollution, and save consumers money at the gas pump. That’s because the Markey-Platts bill is the biggest single step to curbing global warming and doing those other wonderful things.”

Becker said Congress should support the Markey bill because it has stronger corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards than another possibility, the Hill-Terry Bill.

“We know that the auto companies won't act without strong CAFE bill. The current fuel economy stands at the lowest level it has been since 1980s because the auto companies have failed to make progress and the Congress and the administrations have failed to require them to do so. So the challenge for the House is to decide to act on the issue and to choose between strong and weak bill.”

According to Becker, the Markey-Platts bill is closer to the Senate’s version than is the Hill-Terry bill and is more beneficial.

“The Markey-Platts bill would save 1.3 million barrels a day of oil in 2020. It would save over 200,000 jobs. The Hill-Terry bill would do less than half of that. And it’s time for the auto industry to get off its tailpipes, and get into gear, cutting oil addiction, cutting global warming pollution, and saving consumers money at the pump.”

The other amendment the environmental groups hope will be included in the House energy bill is the Udall-Platts bill, H.R. 969, which would set a national renewable electricity standard.

Marchant Wentworth is the Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Energy campaign. He said it would reduce natural gas prices and is a win-win for both the economy and the environment.

“This National Renewable Electricity Standard will actually create over 185,000 new high paying jobs," Wentworth said. "It will save consumers over $10- billion on their energy bills. And it will generate huge new income for farmers, ranchers and rural landowners. And for global warming … it is the equivalent of taking 36.4 million cars off the road in terms of its carbon emissions.”

A similar bill has passed the Senate three times only to be stopped in the House. But since then politics have changed and 23 states have their own renewable electricity standard.

Wentworth said there is more support now and he is optimistic that the Udall-Platts National Renewable Energy Standard will pass as an amendment to energy bill.

Angela Anderson, vice president of Climate Programs at the National Environmental Trust, called the House energy bill “innovative.” She said it sets the stage for reductions in global warming emissions when Congress takes up climate legislation in the fall.

“It says that the federal government will take, in fact, the first step and will freeze its emissions by 2010, and then cut its emissions after that. This is going to be just a great opportunity for the private sector to learn from and see how the federal government goes about this and really sets the stage for an economy-wide carbon cap bill.”

Athan Manuel is the Director of Lands Protection for the Sierra Club also weighed in.

“We feel that the energy bill as it’s written now, currently contains important and necessary reforms to the Department of Interior’s onshore oil and gas drilling program … And the bill also ensures responsible domestic energy development and helps America’s fish and wildlife, public lands, coasts and oceans adapt to global warming.

"The bill that will be voted on will help ensure that oil and gas development takes place in a more responsible manner in more appropriate places with improved environmental safeguards and increased pubic involvement. It’s time for the oil and gas companies to finally act like responsible corporate citizens and stop opposing this effort.”

The House will vote on the energy bill on Friday.

Learn more:

National Environmental Trust

Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Energy campaign

House Energy Bill

Energy bill factsheet

Sierra Club’s action alert for Markey-Platts fuel economy bill

CAFE info from NHTSA

Natural Resources Defense Council

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