WASHINGTON - JUNE 22 - Late Thursday, the Senate passed energy legislation that will do very little to address climate change or alleviate high energy prices. While the bill provides marginal improvement in some energy efficiency standards for appliances, it fails to make the comprehensive reforms needed to shift subsidies away from the coal, oil and nuclear industries to investments in home renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
Lawmakers let automakers off the hook by not requiring them to provide real and achievable improvements in fuel economy. Instead, the bill allows for a size-based sliding scale that enables manufacturers to set their own standards. It also would allow President Bush and future administrations to go below the target of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 if they produce a cost-benefit analysis justifying a lower goal – thereby rendering the target meaningless. (For more analysis of the fuel economy provisions in the bill, click here.)
The bill’s consumer price-gouging protections are limited because they would apply only after the president has declared an emergency. The Senate rejected an effort to repeal $9 billion in recently awarded oil company tax breaks and raise an additional $10 billion through increased royalty fees, which would have financed more financial incentives for people to install home solar systems and encouraged eco-friendly household renovations.
The Senate also rejected a federal renewable electricity standard that would have followed the lead of similar plans in 22 states to require that electric utilities procure or produce 15 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2020.
The bill backs dubious science, putting the cart before the horse on a number of issues. It mandates that 21 billion gallons of non-corn ethanol (and 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol) be used to fuel automobiles by 2022 – despite the fact that most experts dispute the ability of agricultural fuels to meet this target. And the legislation spends more than $1.5 billion promoting carbon sequestration, the controversial plan to place underground millions of tons of carbon dioxide from new coal-fired facilities in an effort to combat climate change.
America deserves an energy policy that puts money in the hands of citizens to install home-based renewable energy systems and invest in energy efficiency. Instead, the Senate continued down the path of handing taxpayer subsidies to big energy companies, and as a result we are not any closer to solving climate change or bringing relief from high energy prices. The House of Representatives should not follow suit.