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
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.
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
- 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.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
A spokesperson for Iraq's government called the strikes "a clear violation of sovereignty."
The Iraqi government on Wednesday condemned deadly U.S. airstrikes south of Baghdad as "a clear violation of sovereignty" that risks escalating regional tensions amid Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip.
The Pentagon said the U.S. strikes targeted two facilities used by Kataib Hezbollah , an Iraqi militia group that the U.S. considers an Iranian proxy. The group, which the U.S. has accused of carrying out an attack on American forces at Iraq's al-Asad Airbase, said eight of its fighters were killed in the early Wednesday strikes and pledged to retaliate.
Bassem al-Awadi, a spokesperson for Iraq's government, said the U.S. launched the strikes without any coordination with Iraqi officials, a decision that he called "a dangerous escalation" and "an attempt to disrupt the stable internal security situation."
Al-Awadi also denounced "any armed action or activity outside the military institution is deemed condemnable and an unlawful endeavor that jeopardizes the national interest," an apparent reference to militia attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
The U.S. airstrikes came just over 24 hours after an American gunship launched an attack on what the Pentagon described as "an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and a number of Iranian-backed militia personnel" in Iraq, purportedly targeting militants who were involved in a ballistic missile strike on U.S. forces.
The missile attack "resulted in non-serious injuries to U.S. and coalition forces, as well as minor damage to infrastructure on the installation," the Pentagon said.
"One thing is clear: Only through a cease-fire can we prevent the conflict from spreading and leading to a devastating regional war that sucks the U.S. into it."
Attacks on the thousands of U.S. forces stationed in Iraq and Syria have intensified since Israel began its latest devastating bombing campaign in Gaza on October 7, when a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel killed around 1,200 people. Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day pause that's set to begin on Thursday.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has carried out three separate series of airstrikes in Syria , actions it has described as defensive responses to rocket and drone attacks that have injured dozens of American forces since last month. None of the U.S. strikes were approved by Congress.
The bombings have intensified fears of a full-scale regional conflict potentially involving the U.S., Israel, Iran, Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Hamas militants in Gaza. Iran's foreign minister recently warned that "expansion of the scope of the war has become inevitable" due to the severity of Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip.
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft,
Tuesday that "one thing is clear: Only through a cease-fire can we prevent the conflict from spreading and leading to a devastating regional war that sucks the U.S. into it."
"The Israeli government's collective punishment and unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza cannot just be put on 'pause'; it must be stopped," said Jewish Voice for Peace.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to a deal under which dozens of Israeli hostages will be freed in exchange for a brief pause in fighting and the release of 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israel's prisons.
The pause, set to take effect within the next 24 hours, is expected to last at least four days to allow for the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the pause will be extended by a day for every additional 10 hostages released.
Hamas is believed to have around 240 hostages. According to the Israeli human rights group HaMoked, thousands of Palestinians are currently detained in Israel without charge or trial.
If it holds, the Qatar-mediated hostage deal will mark a temporary reprieve in what has been a catastrophic six-week war. Israel's response to the October 7 Hamas-led attack—which killed roughly 1,200 people—has decimated large swaths of the Gaza Strip, wrecking schools, homes, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure and killing more than 14,000 people, drawing accusations of genocide .
Israel's siege of the Palestinian enclave has left virtually the entire population on the brink of starvation and forced many of the territory's overwhelmed hospitals to shut down due to a lack of fuel and other critical supplies, depriving many patients—including premature babies —of necessary treatment.
"There is no military solution. We need a political solution—and we cannot get there until we have a full and lasting ceasefire."
Progressive U.S. lawmakers who have been calling for a cease-fire for weeks welcomed the newly announced hostage deal but said it's not sufficient, particularly if the Israeli government resumes its devastating bombing campaign once the four-day pause is over—as Netanyahu has
he intends to do.
"A temporary pause in the violence is not enough," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said in a statement. "We must move with urgency to save as many lives as possible and achieve a permanent cease-fire agreement. Over 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since this violence began, including thousands of children, and 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes."
“Further displacement of Palestinians and forced annexation of their land will only perpetuate this conflict," Tlaib added. "Expanding the illegal occupation will never lead to a just and lasting peace. We must address the root causes of this conflict."
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), the lead sponsor of a cease-fire resolution in the U.S. House, said the pause announcement "further proves the effectiveness of de-escalation and diplomacy—not military force—as a means of saving lives and affirms why we must keep up our push for a permanent cease-fire."
"When this agreement expires, the bombing will continue, thousands more will die, and millions of people will continue to be displaced," said Bush. "We must continue to vigorously push for a permanent cease-fire that ends this violence, protects and saves lives, and ensures the safe return of all hostages, including those who are being arbitrarily detained."
The advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace echoed Bush and Tlaib, saying that "the Israeli government's collective punishment and unfolding genocide of Palestinians in Gaza cannot just be put on 'pause'; it must be stopped."
"Once we have reached a permanent cease-fire, we cannot return to the status quo," the group continued. "We must address the root causes of injustice. A future of peace and safety for everyone, grounded in justice, freedom and equality for all, is still the only option. There is no military solution. We need a political solution—and we cannot get there until we have a full and lasting cease-fire."
Congressional support for a cease-fire has grown steadily in recent weeks as survey results indicate overwhelming support from the U.S. public. Forty-three members of Congress are now calling for a cease-fire, according to a tally by The Intercept 's Prem Thakker.
The Biden administration, though, has repeatedly dismissed the prospects of a lasting cease-fire, claiming it would only benefit Hamas . Citing an unnamed senior official, Politico reported Tuesday that "there was no sense" inside the administration "that the pause would turn into a lengthier cease-fire."
"And there was some concern in the administration about an unintended consequence of the pause: that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel," the outlet added.
As news of the Israel-Hamas deal emerged late Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that "residents in Gaza City said the fighting there had intensified overnight into Wednesday, with gunfire, heavy artillery, and airstrikes in central neighborhoods."
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said in response to the Israel-Hamas deal that "cease-fire or not, unlawful attacks should cease."
Shakir also called for the immediate release of all hostages and an end to the Israeli siege that "has put the lives of 2.2 million people at risk."
"Human beings are not bargaining chips," he said.
"Americans can see through the court's failed attempt at a code of conduct," said one group. "It's time for Congress to take action and pass actual ethics reform."
Nearly three-quarters of U.S. voters want federal lawmakers to pass a stricter ethics policy for the nation's Supreme Court, according to polling results released Tuesday by the progressive advocacy group Demand Justice.
The poll was conducted by YouGov after the Supreme Court announced last week that it had formally adopted a new code of conduct following months of outrage over reporting on relationships between right-wing justices and billionaires. YouGov explained to those surveyed that justices have been criticized for failing to disclose taking gifts and travel from political donors.
YouGov also told voters that supporters of a stricter ethics code say the newly adopted policy "has no way to actually enforce the rules" and believe "Congress should continue to investigate corruption allegations," while opponents of congressional action believe members of the court should be "allowed to determine their own rules without interference" and trusted to enforce them.
Across party lines, 74% of voters agreed that Congress should approve a stricter ethics code and continue to probe "the ties between justices and political megadonors," including 90% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 57% of Republicans.
In response to the findings, End Citizens United said that "Americans can see through the court's failed attempt at a code of conduct. It's time for Congress to take action and pass actual ethics reform."
As Common Dreams reported when the new code was announced last week, critics have condemned it as a "toothless PR stunt" intended to curb media coverage of potential corruption and "halt momentum for transparency and real reform."
Amid a wave of reporting about Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito's connections to billionaire megadonors and Leonard Leo—who leads the Federalist Society, a primary force in pushing U.S. courts to the right—Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act in July.
However, the bill is unlikely to win approval from the full Senate or GOP-controlled House of Representatives. Still, the Senate panel—chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)—is expected to continue its probe, possibly with subpoenas targeting Leo and Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow .
Demand Justice was among over a dozen groups that last week
the committee to issue subpoenas, arguing that "we must learn the full scope of these hidden efforts to improperly influence the Supreme Court and the extent of Justices Thomas' and Alito's ethical wrongdoings."