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The Planet

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY GROUPS ENDORSE VETOES

AS CONGRESS LAUNCHES AN ALL-OUT ASSAULT ON ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY PROGRAMS

Members of the Sustainable Energy Budget Coalition today endorsed President Clinton's threat to veto the Interior and HUD/VA Appropriations Bills. In addition, it called upon Congress to reverse the deep cuts it has made in Fiscal Year 1996 (FY'96) sustainable energy program budgets and to drop a series of energy regulatory riders now under consideration. The Coalition also urged the White House to prepare a Fiscal Year 1997 budget request for federal sustainable energy programs comparable to its original FY'96 request thereby sending a strong message to Congress about Administration priorities.

The Coalition issued its call in light of the all-out assault on renewable energy (i.e., solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric) and energy efficiency programs by congressional leaders and their corporate supporters that threatens to destroy the sustainable energy industry and prevent any future advances. The Coalition charged that Congress apparently prefers to send Americans to war to protect foreign supplies of oil as well as open the environmentally sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) than to invest in sustainable energy technologies. For example:

  • The House and Senate have voted to slash funding for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) FY'96 renewable energy programs by up to 30 percent below FY'95 levels while energy efficiency programs, such as the Golden Carrots, state energy grants, and low-income weatherization assistance programs, would be cut even more deeply. The "Green Lights," "Energy Star Computers," and other successful, voluntary energy efficiency and pollution prevention programs in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have also been the targets of some congressional budget-cutters. By comparison, funding for nuclear and fossil fuel programs would be trimmed by no more than 15 percent.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed to eliminate the 1.5 cent per kilowatt-hour production tax credit for wind energy and "closed loop" biomass energy plants -- a program "savings" of only $90 million over five years. In addition, the tax exemption given to ethanol and its derivative ether, ETBE, would be cut back and eliminated respectively. Rebates given to businesses by utilities for the installation of energy conservation equipment would become taxable. Meanwhile, multi-billion dollar tax breaks for the fossil fuel industries -- such as percentage depletion allowances ($3.4 billion over 5 years), nonconventional fuel production ($5.8 billion over 5 years), and intangible drilling costs ($2.5 billion over 5 years), foreign oil tax credits ($5 billion a year) and section 29 gas credits (estimated at $1 billion/year) -- remain intact.

  • Both houses of Congress have voted to prohibit DOE from issuing new appliance efficiency standards in FY'96 and are expected to eventually target them for elimination altogether. Similarly, a proposed legislative rider to the Transportation Appropriations bill would prohibit the issuance of new fuel efficiency standards for light trucks. In addition, both houses have proposed to lift the speed limits for cars on interstate highways thereby increasing fuel consumption and highway fatalities.

  • Legislators, joined by a large group of major electric utility companies, have also targeted the 1978 Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) -- the primary federal law promoting the expansion of renewable energy technologies -- for repeal. Simultaneously, Congress is accelerating the siting of environmentally unsafe radioactive waste storage facilities and seeking to open ANWR for oil drilling.

  • At the state level, utilities and utility regulatory commissions are pursuing utility restructuring schemes that undermine demand-side management programs, put renewables at a competitive disadvantage with fossil fuels, and raise costs for consumers.

The energy efficiency and renewable energy programs being targeted by Congress help support more than 45,000 jobs nationwide (in addition to tens of thousands more created in the private sector) as well as provide more than $1.7 billion in federal and private funds combined, according to a study, "Penny Wise, Pound Fuelish," released by the Sustainable Energy Budget Coalition in June.

With continued cost-effective support, energy efficient and renewable energy technologies are poised to make major contributions. Energy efficiency has reduced projected energy use by over 30 percent since 1975 while renewable energy now accounts for nearly 10 percent of domestic energy production. Moreover, over the past two decades, these technologies have experienced marked price drops and are now cost-competitive with, and often cheaper than, conventional energy sources.

On the other hand, continued reliance on traditional fossil fuels poses a range of health, environmental, and economic risks. For example, oil imports now exceed 50 percent - an all-time high - adding $60 billion annually to the U.S.'s balance-of-trade deficit while domestic production has dropped. Furthermore, health and environmental risks posed by air and water pollution and radioactive waste continue unabated. Finally, there is growing evidence of global climate change suggested by growing carbon dioxide emissions, record-setting temperatures throughout the past fifteen years, and the increasing prevalence of hurricanes, floods, and droughts.

Not surprisingly, a recent national public opinion survey, "Energy: Post-Election Views," commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Budget Coalition found that voters - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike - overwhelmingly agree that funding priority should be given to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and that funding cuts should target nuclear and fossil fuel programs.

Consequently, members of the Sustainable Energy Budget Coalition are urging President Clinton to veto the Interior and HUD/VA appropriations bills unless funding is restored for DOE's energy efficiency programs and retained for EPA's voluntary "green programs" (as provided for by a recently- approved amendment to the Senate's HUD/VA Appropriations bill). Furthermore, the Coalition is pressing the White House to fight the proposed regulatory riders, tax "reforms," accelerated radioactive waste program and the opening of ANWR, and repeal of PURPA that would undermine the nation's sustainable energy programs. Finally, to demonstrate its continued commitment to sustainable energy programs, the Coalition is urging the White House to submit a FY'97 budget request for its energy efficiency and renewable energy programs comparable to the FY'96 request but which also provides for deeper cuts in DOE's nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and fossil fuel programs.

The Sustainable Energy Budget Coalition is a non-profit coalition of nearly 40 national environmental, business, governmental, and other energy policy organizations founded in 1992 to encourage a shift from fossil fuels and nuclear power to energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.
Contact: Ken Bossong, 301-270-2258; Bill Magavern, 202-546-4996 Email: cmep@citizen.org)


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