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Public Citizen to Senate: Don’t Follow the House’s Lead on Energy Bill

July 28, 2005

Public Citizen to Senate: Don’t Follow the House’s Lead on Energy Bill

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen

The energy bill approved by the House today is a simply stunning display of congressional indifference to our serious energy problems and an example of corporate welfare at its worst. It does nothing to ease prices for gasoline or electricity for consumers, does not address climate change and utterly fails to chart a course toward a more energy efficient, cleaner future for America.  We urge the Senate to stand up to the big energy corporations and reject this 1,700-page legislation that few members have read as it was rushed through Congress.

Not only does this bill hand over billions in taxpayer subsidies to mature industries that should not need – and certainly don’t deserve – government handouts, it rolls back the clock to the 1920s in terms of electric utility regulation. The bill’s repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act will set the stage for utility mergers that could very well destabilize an industry that for the past 70 years has brought us the world’s most reliable electricity grid. Under this legislation, banks, oil companies and even foreign countries could purchase electric utilities, further removing them from local control and state oversight.

In addition, the bill provides cradle-to-grave subsidies for the nuclear industry, which cannot compete without such government aid. This is bad policy because it creates more nuclear waste and increases the risk of nuclear proliferation while retarding the development of the alternative, renewable energy sources of the future.

The legislation will exempt oil and gas companies from important environmental protection laws and subsidize further oil production at a time when oil companies are earning record profits. But it ignores stronger fuel economy standards – a proven, commonsense way to curb consumption very significantly and very quickly.

This bill also will limit the ability of states and local communities to have adequate say in how proposed liquefied natural gas facilities are built.

Consumers, meanwhile, will be stuck with higher gas and electricity prices, a more polluted and dangerous world, and a future without sustainable and renewable energy alternatives. A presidential demand for an energy bill by August 1 is no reason to rush passage of legislation that fails U.S. consumers and businesses that are heavily dependent on energy. We urge senators to reject this bill in light of its billions of dollars of pork and its inability to lower energy prices. Lawmakers should go back to the drawing board.