Senate Energy Bill Leaves Consumers in Dark, Sends Country in Wrong Direction

April 25, 2002

Senate Energy Bill Leaves Consumers in Dark, Sends Country in Wrong Direction

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Later today, the U.S. Senate will vote on what is arguably one of the worst pieces of legislation to hit the Senate floor in a long time ? the energy bill.

This country is at a critical juncture on energy matters, and we can ill afford to pass this backwards-looking measure. We guzzle nearly three times more oil than we produce ? an amazing statistic, considering that the United States is the third highest oil producing country in the world. Despite the energy crisis in the 1970s, we are making larger vehicles that drink up more gas than ever, and are doing nothing to conserve. Recently we have seen unprecedented heat waves, and deregulation has caused turmoil in energy markets. There is no solution for our nuclear waste, except to leave it as a deadly legacy for future generations.

So what does the Senate energy bill propose? Measures that would take us back decades and do nothing to help us now. This bill stymies efforts to boost fuel economy ? something that polls show Americans strongly favor. It spends billions to promote fossil fuels by subsidizing the coal industry, as well as on- and off-shore oil and gas production, ultimately contributing to harmful global warming.

The bill is larded with tax breaks and subsidies. It hands over more than a billion dollars to the nuclear energy industry, encouraging it to expand and create even more deadly waste. And in what is one of the most foolhardy provisions, the bill would repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act, which restricts the ability of companies to make investments that divert resources away from their primary responsibility of serving electricity customers. Enron may be damaged goods and unable to take advantage of this, but this is exactly the kind of deregulation that such energy traders want. And just yesterday, the Senate made this horrible measure even worse by weakening a requirement intended to get power companies to use more renewable fuels.

How can the U.S. Senate can be so short-sighted? The public expects lawmakers to look to the future and help prepare for it. Instead, too many senators are catering to the industries that bankrolled their campaigns ? or might in the future. It is shameful, disappointing and, frankly, disgusting. We strongly urge the Senate to defeat this measure. Go back to the table and start again, and this time, keep the people in mind.