December 13, 2007
Help STOP Subsidies to the Ethanol, Coal, Landfill, Incinerator and Nuclear Industries!
WE LOST. Late in the day on 12/13/2007, the Senate passed the bill in an 86-8 vote. It'll soon coast through the House and be signed by resident Bush. The bill passed without the tax section and without the renewable electricity standard. These omissions gutted some of the best aspects of the bill as well as some of the bad parts we highlight below. However, the ethanol mandate passed, representing a major tragedy for all of the communities that will be impacted by this.
Many hundreds of additional communities are now going to become targets for ethanol biorefineries, including "advanced" biofuels, which will include even more use of biotechnology and which will clear our forests and crop lands to liquidate them to fuel vehicles. Even more troubling is that much of this will create a demand to try to turn trash, sewage sludge and other contaminated waste streams into liquid fuels. We're already busy enough trying to help communities fight these things and our work is going to get FAR bigger. The more we succeed in stopping these insane "biofuel" schemes in the U.S., the more we'll end up importing it and contributing to deforestation and global hunger in other countries.
...and on the CAFE standard, it is NOT worth it. 35 mpg by 2020 is a joke. Without doing anything, the sustained high price of oil alone would do more to change the fleet of what (or IF) people choose to drive 12 years from now. Take one look at the
price trend on oil
and this should be self-evident. 35 mpg was a good idea for the 1970s. Any serious goal for 2020 needs to be more around 60 mpg (or rather zero mpg, since we shouldn't be burning gallons of anything, but should be using clean electricity for the reduced amount of vehicles we should have by then).
Go to the Source:
House Resolution 6
For more details, search by Bill Number for "HR6" here: http://thomas.loc.gov
The energy bill is over 1,000 pages and covers many issues. It's far more complex than any action alert may be telling you.
While there are many good parts of the bill, it's critical that we stop some of the major bad parts that remain. The biggest deal-breaker that we still see in the bill is the "Renewable Fuel Standard" -- a giant ethanol subsidy. As long as that remains in the bill, we urge action to STOP the bill.
One major victory so far is the removal of $50 billion/year subsidies for new nuclear reactors. However, this is now being promoted in other bills, so see the section below on nuclear power for more info.
- 12/6/2007: The House passed the bill by a vote of 235-181 (16 not voting).
- 12/7/2007: The Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to override a filibuster in a 53-42 vote (5 not voting). In order to get the votes of at least 7 more Senators, the Senate's "compromise" version removed the Renewable Electricity Standard.
- 12/13/2007: The Senate still fell one vote shy of the 60 votes they needed for "cloture" (to end a filibuster). In response, Senate Leader Reid (D-NV) promptly announced that the $21 billion tax package opposed by Republicans and the White House would be dropped from the legislation.
STRATEGY: It's more important to get this bill cleaned up than to settle for getting anything passed as soon as possible. Our movement is increasing the pressure on these issues and it's just a matter of time before a version of this bill passes. Please join our call to get your Senators to vote the bill DOWN, but for the right reasons. Doing so will bring us closer to getting this bill passed in a cleaner form. 1 or 2 votes could make the difference!
Clean Electricity for Vehicles, NOT Dirty "Renewable" Fuels!
ACTION: Cut out the Renewable Fuels Standard ...and don't just move it into the Farm Bill!
TALKING POINTS: The five-fold increase in "renewable fuel" use, mandated by the bill, will continue to drive up food prices, while contributing to water and soil depletion, the spread of biotech crops, polluted ethanol refinery communities and will further our reliance on imported fuels and fertilizers, bringing on rainforest destruction and starvation in poor countries. We urge the Senate to remove the ethanol mandate and replace it with an equally strong policy to support clean mass transportation and electric vehicles.
Corn-based ethanol plants are made possibly only with large amounts of coal, oil and gas, and imported fertilizers made with natural gas. Cellulosic ethanol is even less efficient, paving the way for dirty "trash-to-ethanol" plants and other polluting, biotech-ridden experiments. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't even expect cellulosic ethanol to be commercially viable for at least another 5-6 years. We can't afford to wait for these inadequate and dirty fuels while we can be investing right away in electric vehicles which are many times more efficient, and can be powered with clean wind and solar power.
Title II of the energy bill includes the Renewable Fuel Standard (Sec 202) plus many other subsidies to burnable agriculture- and waste-based fuels. We urge the removal of sections 202-203, 207,
221-227, 229-234, 241-246, 248 and 1521-1527 -- and urge that the funding for these provisions be used to enhance the funding for the transition to use of electric vehicles.
For details on what the bill requires, see Title II starting on page 68 of the energy bill.
- Ethanol Factsheet
- Cellulosic Ethanol (Alternative Fuels) Factsheet
- Biodiesel Factsheet
- Biodiesel Reality Check
- Problems with Agrofuels
- Rainforest Action Network's Agrofuels campaign
Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrids:
ACTION: Cut out the billions in subsidies for building new coal gasification power plants and for the "carbon capture and storage research, development and demonstration program" which includes 7 large-volume carbon sequestration tests. Remove coal technologies (coal gasification and more) from the renewable energy tax credit extension!
TALKING POINTS: There is no such thing as "clean coal." It all relies on the same old dirty mining and still produces toxic emissions and wastes. Nature figured out that the best way to sequester carbon is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. We can't even store solid nuclear wastes for 50 years without leakage. There's no way we'll be able to permanently bury trillions of tons per year of a gas underground and not have it leak out and suffocate nearby communities. The carbon capture and sequestration funding specifically supports new coal power plants, which ought to be canceled, not supported. Coal mining and waste disposal will never be clean, even if the smokestacks are. "Clean coal" plants aren't economical and are being canceled left and right.
The entire Carbon Capture and Sequestration Title (Title VII -- Sections 701-714) as well as the Title XV (Sections 1507-1512) should be removed from the energy bill.
The inclusion of coal in the renewable energy tax credit extension was added by the senate's new version on 12/12/2007, and will benefit the "spray the coal with chemicals for a tax credit" scam and may even include IGCC (as it includes "gaseous" fuels from coal). See the IRS Sec 45 tax code if you'd like to understand the new version of the energy bill that updates it.
ACTION: Remove support for landfills and incinerators (including the "biomass" variety) from the major renewable energy policies in the bill: the Renewable Electricity Standard (Title XIV), the extension of the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (Sec 1501), and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (Sec 544. 11 and 13(D)).
The Renewable Electricity Standard should have a specific set-aside for solar technologies (as several state laws have), since without one, solar will not benefit from the policy. The Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit extension is a great idea, but return it to its original purpose -- supporting zero-emission clean renewables like wind -- not supporting trash, poultry waste and landfill gas burning.
TALKING POINTS: Incineration is the dirtiest option for managing trash, wood waste, animal waste and landfill gas. Burning crops and trees in the guise of "biomass" is not clean, environmentally sustainable or even necessary. Supporting these technologies alongside wind power will harm the market for wind and encourage waste industries, logging and more abuse of agricultural lands. Europe, the World Bank and the International Panel on Climate Change have all concluded that the best way to avoid greenhouse gas pollution from landfills is to keep organic waste out of them to avoid creating methane -- not by capturing marginal amounts of gas from them. Incinerating trash, poultry waste and landfill gas is about as dirty as burning fossil fuels and can be even worse by some measures, including greenhouse gas pollution.
Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit
- The tax credit won't be extended for "refined coal" or "Indian coal" in the House version. (Facilities burning either of these fuels will still benefit from the credit if they start operations by 1/1/2009.) The Senate version discontinues only the "Indian coal" credit.
- The tax credit will be extended for four years (until 1/1/2013) instead of the usual two year extensions and will apply to wind power, solar energy and small irrigation power. (It'll also apply to many dirty sources -- see below).
- The Senate's new version on 12/12/2007 extended the renewable tax credit to "refined coal" which includes the "spray the coal with chemicals for a tax credit" scam and may even include IGCC (coal gasification or "clean coal").
- The credit will be extended for new or expanded trash incinerators, landfill gas burners and many forms of "biomass" (including poultry waste incineration).
- The Senate's new version on 12/12/2007 expands the trash incinerator definition to include even MORE types of trash incinerators (gasification, plasma, pyrolysis and others -- as long as they generate electricity from trash somehow).
Renewable Electricity Standard
[Update: On 12/12/2007, the Senate's "compromise" bill dropped the Renewable Electricity Standard entirely, in order to try to pick up the extra votes they need to support the bill.]
- Trash incineration wasn't included as a renewable energy source (but was still supported with a "quasi-renewable" status; more below)
- Fossil fuels and nuclear power didn't get put into the policy, as some very misguided state laws of this sort have (in PA, VA and NC).
- A few of the dirtiest and most damaging forms of "biomass" incineration were not included (or were explicitly excluded), such as burning tires, treated wood and wood from certain forests sources.
- Solar power won't benefit since it's in competition with a bunch of technologies that are cheaper. Several states solved this in their state renewable laws by creating a specific minimum requirement for solar power.
- Poultry waste incineration: the bill's language was altered (probably with the lobbying help from Fibrowatt) so that burning "animal waste or animal byproducts" counts as renewable.
- Landfills subsidized: the inclusion of landfill gas means that landfills will receive significant subsidies, helping them undercut the market for wind as well as their clean competition in the waste reduction, recycling and composting sectors.
- Biomass incineration: more forests will fall, more abusive monocrop agriculture will be feeding industrial burners, toxic contaminated wood products will slip into boilers, polluting communities despite efforts in the bill language to avoid this.
- Existing trash incinerators and hydroelectric dams -- while not included as renewable energy -- still benefit, since their energy production is not subject to the renewable electricity standard. This is a tricky way of granting "quasi-renewable" status to these technologies, creating the incentive to keep these facilities operating. The definition of "retail electric supplier's base amount" (p800 of the energy bill) excludes these technologies, meaning that the percentage requirement (15% by 2020) is calculated based on all electricity production minus energy produced from these sources. This is the same sneaky trick that Virginia's renewable energy law created with regard to nuclear power. Because hydropower and incineration total about 8% of our electricity supply, this waters down (pardon the pun!) the 15% goal, making it a "13.8% by 2020" standard. This loophole will prevent many more wind farms from being built.
Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants
These grants should not include subsidies to landfills or "biomass" incinerators.
- Landfill Gas Factsheet
- Poultry Waste Incineration
- Poultry Waste Incineration Compared to Coal
- Trash Incineration
ACTION: Section 206 of the energy bill calls for a study of providing credits for use of renewable electricity to power electric vehicles. This is a great idea, but the bill requires that they also study the use of nuclear power for this purpose, which is utterly ridiculous. This language -- Sec 206(C)(2)(B) -- ought to be deleted.
Section 934 expands the Price-Anderson Act (a federal cap on nuclear industry liability in the case of an accident) to additional nuclear activities (including those overseas). This is yet another -- quite significant -- nuclear industry subsidy which ought to be completely removed from the bill.
[VICTORY on billions of nuclear loans... so far. The $50 billion/year loan guarantee language was cut out of the energy bill, but Senator Domenici (R-NM) is now planning to include $25 billion in taxpayer loan guarantees in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill. There's also been talk about amending it into the renewable section of the Farm Bill. Keep reading for more info on this....]
Cut out the $50 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors. Cut out all other support for nuclear power (including Price-Anderson liability limitations) ...and no trying to sneak the loans into the Farm Bill!
The $50 billion provision not only would help finance new nuclear reactors, but would allow money to be appropriated without annual congressional budgetary oversight.
TALKING POINTS: Nuclear power is not clean, safe or affordable energy. It can't be built in time to solve our global warming crisis, even IF there were enough uranium left and IF nuclear power didn't release radioactive pollution and create unmanageable wastes. We shouldn't be throwing billions of dollars at a "mature" industry.
TARGETS: Members on an Appropriations Committee should receive special attention. These Members have the most to lose politically from the loan guarantees: a) they would lose power if the guarantees are removed from the annual appropriations process; b) they will be the first to be blamed if utilities default on the loans -- and remember that the Congressional Budget Office predicts 50% of the loans in this program will default, which would cost taxpayers billions of dollars.