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Sen. Lugar’s Alternative Climate Bill Will Not Protect Against Climate Change

 June 7, 2010  

Sen. Lugar’s Alternative Climate Bill Will Not Protect Against Climate Change

Congress Must Go Back to the Drawing Board to Enact Meaningful Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The climate bill introduced today by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), touted as an alternative to the cap-and-trade climate bill by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), does not go far enough, Public Citizen said today. Lugar’s bill would achieve only half the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 by 2020 that Kerry and Lieberman claim their bill would achieve. Further, Lugar’s approach – relying on improved fuel economy standards and expanded nuclear power – will not put us on a path to preventing the worst consequences of climate change.

The targets set by the Kerry-Lieberman bill were already insufficient to meet what the best science suggests is needed to protect against climate change. To achieve only half these reductions is not a climate strategy at all, Public Citizen maintains. And the proposed cuts in oil consumption from increased fuel economy are less aggressive than what the Obama administration has already mandated auto companies to achieve for model years 2012-2016.

Lugar’s bill would take a similar approach to a bill he introduced in 2007 – both of which would require a four percent per year improvement in fuel economy for passenger cars and light trucks, and expand use of biofuels. Particularly dangerous now, this approach could potentially damage the progress made by the administration in issuing joint fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks. Obama has recently ordered staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to begin work on standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017 and beyond. 

“This bill does not provide a useful climate or energy strategy,” said Lena Pons, a policy analyst with Public Citizen. “It might actually harm the work the administration is already doing to cut oil consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. It would wrongly expand support for risky nuclear power. This approach should not be the basis for any climate or energy bill. Congress should go back to the drawing board.”

Any effort to reduce the EPA’s role in setting greenhouse gas regulations for motor vehicles is a step in the wrong direction, Public Citizen said. Additionally, the mandates for 36 billion gallons of biofuels included in the 2007 energy law have not successfully encouraged growth in alternative fuels, which have a real impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Expanded requirements for biofuel production will not bring us any closer to cutting oil consumption.

The Lugar bill also takes the wrong approach on electricity. It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity through expanded loan guarantees for risky and expensive nuclear power and would cut emissions from coal-fired power plants by encouraging them to voluntarily take plants offline in 2020. Coal-fired power plants are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions; aggressively shifting away from coal plants to clean, renewable sources like wind and solar must be a core strategy in curtailing climate pollution.

Public Citizen has long been opposed to any expansion of nuclear power. The plants must be heavily subsidized to be economically viable, there is no strategy to deal with nuclear waste in the long term and there is no strategy for addressing the serious risks posed by nuclear power plants.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org