Statement On Energy Legislation

Statement On Energy Legislation

Adopted by the Board of Governors, June 24, 2002

In its Statement on Energy adopted on February 8, 2002, the American Jewish Committee called for the United States to adopt a comprehensive energy program that seeks to substantially reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil as a crucial element in achieving energy flexibility and near energy independence in the longer term. Recent events, including the Iraqi oil embargo and the interruption of Venezuelan oil production, have reinforced the critical importance of enacting such a program. In light of these concerns, and the specific measures recommended in AJC's policy statement, AJC urges Congress to seize the opportunity presented by the pending energy legislation to enact a comprehensive energy program.

The overall effort to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign energy sources must be balanced in its approach and encompass the following principles:

  1. Substantial increases in vehicle fuel efficiency, including the swift adoption of significant, tough, and long-term corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. This is the most effective way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, year after year, on a consistent basis. While neither the House nor the Senate bill currently calls for such measures, AJC hopes that meaningful action may yet be taken by Congress in this area. At the very least, provisions of the energy bill already adopted by the Senate, which require a study, should be implemented in a fashion that is cognizant of the need for early and substantial increases in efficiency standards.

  2. A sharp reduction in wasteful energy consumption through mandates, requirements and other incentives to encourage industrial and consumer efficiency and conservation, including standards for new buildings and appliances, as well as automobiles.

  3. Responsible increased development of domestic sources of energy including oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear, with sound environmental and other safeguards

  4. Intense research, development and commercialization of alternative sources of energy, through demonstration projects and other incentive programs, especially for vehicles, such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, synthetic fuels, biomass, solar, wind and any others that give promise of technical feasibility in the middle and long term. Hybrid cars, made by many auto manufacturers have the prospect of rapidly reducing oil usage if tax incentives are in place.

  5. Maintenance and expansion of, and willingness to use, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve program.

  6. Strengthened energy infrastructure, including timely consideration of additional energy transmission facilities (electricity transmission lines, natural gas and liquid fuels pipelines) consistent with sound environmental principles; improved reliability and efficiency of the interstate electricity transmission system; and effective pipeline safety regulation.

  7. Diversification of foreign oil sources including the continued exploration and development of alternative sources of foreign oil around the world, with sound environmental safeguards.

  8. Programs to provide energy aid to low-income households to help them meet their energy needs.

The various sides on these issues must look beyond narrow interests in order to ensure that our nation is less susceptible in the future to international energy coercion. In particular, the final energy bill should promote increased development of domestic sources with appropriate attention to environmental and other safeguards, but this development must take place within the context of a comprehensive energy program that includes substantial increases in vehicle fuel efficiency, and a sharp reduction in wasteful energy consumption.

As is well known, proposals for development of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) have been fraught with controversy for a variety of reasons, including the potential environmental impact, a protracted production start date, conflicting oil quantity estimates, and the existence of alternative oil fields in less protected areas. Thus, although AJC has a firm commitment to increased development of domestic energy sources, these considerations evidence the need for more research into the amount of recoverable oil present in the area.

Assuming research bears out the presence of sufficient recoverable oil, AJC would, given the urgent need for the United States to move toward increased energy independence, accept provisions allowing for exploration and development of ANWR accompanied by sound environmental safeguards, but only as part of an overall package that mandates substantially strengthened CAFE standards, and other measures to encourage efficiency and conservation that are necessary elements of a balanced approach to achieving greater energy independence.

Date: 6/24/2002
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