Senate's Dirty Energy Bill

Senate’s Dirty Energy Bill

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The American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (ACELA) fails to heed President Obama’s call for clean energy jobs and a green economy. Instead it takes the same past false steps and increases our reliance on failed dirty energy sources.

ACELA 2009 is expected to become a part of a larger climate and energy bill that would come to the Senate floor in the fall. It would be combined with global warming legislation from Chairwoman Boxer’s Environment and Public Works Committee, an energy tax package from Chairman Baucus’s Finance Committee and pieces from other committees.

Going Backwards

A key component of the bill is a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that does not actually promote renewables. Our country needs incentives for renewable in order to make the transition to a clean economy and policies like a good RES are desperately needed. However, the committee’s RES is so weak that an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that it could actually result in less renewables coming online.[1]

Making matters worse, the Standard would undermine biomass protections that were previously established in the Renewable Fuels Standard and could lead to our forests being burned for electricity instead of the creation of windmills and solar arrays. The standard also establishes non-renewable dirty energy sources such as burning trash, which emits dioxins – a harmful neurotoxin – when incinerated, as renewable energy sources.

Dirty Energy, not Clean Energy

The committee’s bill would also expand use of dirty and old technologies, such as nuclear reactors, synthetic fuels and off-shore drilling.   Friends of the Earth singled out three provisions in the bill for criticism:  

  • ·   Creates a Clean Energy Deployment Agency that removes Congressional oversight over Loan Guarantees for energy projects. The current loan guarantee program allows some of the world’s largest corporations to have the government to finance uneconomic projects such as nuclear reactors and liquid coal facilities that they do not want to finance.  A massive expansion of the fund could ensure that the federal government is stuck holding the bag for hundreds of billions of dollars for failed nuclear reactors and coal plants. Under the Senate plan, the new agency could give out unlimited loan guarantees for nuclear reactors, without any congressional oversight and with insufficient taxpayer protections, resulting in a likely multibillion dollar bailout for the nuclear industry. The House has already rejected a similar provision and added important taxpayer safeguards.
  • ·    Weakens a provision that prevents the government from purchasing fuels with a higher carbon intensity than gasoline.  The government should not be worsening global warming by purchasing fuels that are worse than oil. The provision is currently in effect and the government is complying with it. Weakening the provision would send a signal to Canada that we want to continue our dependence on dirty tar sands oil and encourage them to expand the production of this fuel. 
  • ·    Expands Off-shore Drilling. The 125 mile drilling buffer off Florida’s coast could be reduced to just 45 miles in some places. It would also allow oil rigs to travel as close as 10 miles to shore. It would also put the interest of oil companies above those of our military by allowing drilling to potentially impact offshore military training in the eastern Gulf near Pensacola, Panama City and Fort Walton Beach that the military has said is essential for military preparedness.  We need to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, not increase our addiction.