Senate Climate Change Bill Won’t Wean Us Off Fossil Fuels, Fails to Hold Polluters Accountable

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Senate Climate Change Bill Won’t Wean Us Off Fossil Fuels, Fails to Hold Polluters Accountable

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program

WASHINGTON - Climate change requires us to rethink and transform the ways we
produce and consume energy and the way we transport goods and people.
But draft legislation being considered by the Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee (S.1733) fails to hold polluters accountable and
falls short of empowering locally controlled sustainable energy.

There is no question that Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John
Kerry (D-Mass.) understand the threat posed by climate change and are
passionate about and committed to addressing the problem. They are
environmental champions. But the draft bill contains compromises,
flaws, loopholes and giveaways that defeat its purpose.

The bill is too similar to the flawed legislation passed in June by
the House of Representatives that prioritizes nuclear power and coal
over solar and wind power, and puts corporate utilities before
community-owned power. Science tells us that we must act now to lower
our emissions of greenhouse gases, but this legislation locks us in to
our coal and oil addictions and relies on a dubious “cap-and-trade”
scheme that doesn’t meaningfully reduce emissions - but does result in
billion-dollar giveaways to utilities and creates a trillion-dollar
pollution trading market for Wall Street. The bill does not come close
to achieving the carbon reductions that science says is necessary to
avert catastrophic climate change.

Public Citizen understands that addressing climate change means
challenging the entrenched political power of the electric power
industry, which has strong-armed Congress into giving it enormous
taxpayer subsidies for ultra-expensive centralized power plants that
are too risky (nuclear) and unproven (clean coal) instead of investing
in rooftop solar, wind and geothermal, and investments in energy
efficiency. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency concludes that
the bulk of emissions reductions comes not from cap-and-trade but from
the aggressive building and appliance efficiency mandates in the
House-passed bill. Public Citizen understands that households shouldn’t
have to pay higher electric bills while utilities use the law’s
loopholes to rake in billions of dollars in windfall profits.
 
Public Citizen calls on the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee to stand up to the $100 million lobbying campaign by
utilities and support meaningful climate legislation that:
 

  • Achieves carbon emission reductions in line with what science says
    is imperative (25-40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020);
  • Establishes incentives to promote rooftop solar and wind power instead of new nuclear power and coal plants;
  • If it is going to rely on a cap-and-trade scheme, at least embraces
    President Barack Obama's call - as repeated in his August revised
    budget submitted to Congress - for a 100 percent auction that holds
    polluters accountable and delivers rebates and energy efficiency
    investments directly to the American people rather than through
    utilities;
  • Limits the use of offsets so our policies promote real emissions reductions, not theoretical ones;
  • Prohibits Wall Street from investing in a cap-and-trade speculation frenzy; and
  • Mandates strong efficiency standards for buildings, appliances and transportation.

READ an in-depth analysis of the bill.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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