JSPAN Wants Sound Energy Policy

JSPAN POLICY PAPER - January, 2004 The national energy bill (S.16) that came out of conference – but was held up in the Senate by a filibuster in December – is going to be a leading issue as the Senate reconvenes this month. This bill is not a balanced energy policy, but mainly a collection of gifts to special interests. As one Senator put it, in this energy bill “No lobbyist was left behind!” Energy policy must be the concern of every Jew. Our heritage teaches that we are responsible for our environment and for gentler treatment of the earth. Moreover, the continuing dependence of the industrial nations on Middle Eastern oil destabilizes that region and threatens Israel’s security. JSPAN urges the Congress to defeat the energy bill and start over! Why? We need real energy reform:
  • Spending money on oil or gas producers should not be our main energy policy.
  • Conservation deserves to be a high priority, even though it will not balance the energy budget by itself.
  • Greenhouse gasses must be addressed. How? Not by subsidizing coal, oil or natural gas, all of which produce greenhouse gas.
  • Solar power, wind power, hydro power and tidal power technology and projects need to be developed.
  • We must emphasize waste derived fuel (ethanol too, not as a crop, but by using chaff from food and animal feed crops).
  • We must develop the non-fossil fuel energy forms that are lagging.
The pending bill does little to control the rapidly rising cost of energy today or to reduce oil imports now. The bill reduces taxes on the energy industry, which has funded so many Congressional races so heavily.
  • Big tax incentives - $14.5 billion – for oil, gas and coal producers will put money into some of the richest hands in the country. These companies are already earning profits at record rates due to record energy prices!
  • Ethanol production from corn might increase, but nobody has shown that the energy we get from using this source as a gasoline additive actually exceeds the energy used to produce it!
  • Only $1.5 billion is provided for energy efficiency, which amounts to less than a tenth of the tax benefits and new spending in the bill!
  • The bill has lots of useless pork, such as $1 billion for shoreline erosion for oil producing states.
  • It would repeal the strongly consumerist 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act, which protects utility customers and investors from electric and gas oligopolies.
The energy bill continues the Administration’s work to undo New Deal reforms. Before the Holding Company Act (PUHCA), utility magnates -- the best known was Sam Insull -- pyramided ownerhip of holding companies in many layers. A small investment at the top controlled hundreds of utility companies with millions of customers. The utility customers bore the burden of immense debt of the layered holding companies. The holding companies also spawned unregulated affiliated “service companies” which sold the utilities everything from pipe to insurance and management services, all at big additional profits to the holding companies, and all at consumer expense. PUHCA ended this victimization. Yet this energy bill would repeal PUHCA and restore the conditions for higher electric and gas utility rates as well as financial instability (many of the highly leveraged utility holding company pyramids fell apart in the Great Depression). Write or e-mail your Senators immediately to defeat the energy bill and start over! Click here for a model letter.