A balanced U.S. energy policy would involve increased reliance on natural gas as a bridge to renewable and environmentally sound energy sources in the future.
WASHINGTON, DC – The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says U.S. energy policy should meet the nation’s needs and save consumers billions of dollars annually, without destroying pristine wilderness areas or rolling back environmental safeguards. It has released a report that contrasts with recent energy decisions by the Bush Administration, and addresses the need for energy in an “economically reasonable, equitable and environmentally sound” manner. “The cornerstone of NRDC’s plan is increased energy efficiency, relying not on pie-in-the-sky, undeveloped technologies, but on already available and cost-effective processes and technologies,” it says. “In the short-term, the plan calls for increased reliance on natural gas as a bridge to renewable and environmentally sound energy sources in the future,” and calls for reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Among the key recommendations is a demand for the establishment of a federal portfolio standard to ensure that renewable energy steadily increases its market share at minimum cost, and to extend the renewable energy production tax credit which encourages greater reliance on emerging renewable energy sources. A main focus of the report is to counter Bush’s proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and development and to roll back environmental safeguards to pave the way for more fossil fuel development. NRDC says the proposal “is completely unresponsive to the problems it purports to address” and would make “virtually no difference to America’s energy supply in the short- or long-term, it would have no impact on energy prices, and it would have no practical effect on America’s dependence on foreign sources of oil.” Other recommendations are to provide tax credits to individuals who buy vehicles with hybrid electric drive technology, and a national system benefits fund to promote energy efficiency, support research & development, and maintain universal service. It wants tax incentives for advanced energy-efficient buildings and appliances, stronger energy-efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, comprehensive limits on air pollution from power plants covering emissions of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and mercury, and full disclosure for customers on the source and environmental impact of their electricity. The government must reject new subsidies for so-called ‘clean coal’ technology and nuclear power, and eliminate existing subsidies. “The fastest, cheapest and cleanest response to the electricity crisis is to take advantage of (California’s) many immediate opportunities to ramp up its energy-efficiency and renewable-energy investments,” it argues. “These measures already are contributing more than 15,000 megawatts to the Western power grid, which have never needed them more.” The legislature “should help the state do more, starting with a large additional energy-efficiency and renewable energy investment from California’s budget surplus.” The group also called for more natural gas power plants which meet siting requirements. “In the long-term, the best path for California is the best path for America: strong clean air standards, increased reliance on energy-efficiency measures; a shift away from obsolete, inefficient fossil-fueled plants as a source for electricity; and, eventually, full conversion to renewable and environmentally sound forms of energy.” A public goods or system benefits charge “can help fund cost-effective, long-term investments in energy efficiency, low-income services and renewable energy resources,” it explains, adding that at least 20 states have some form of system benefits charge. “Renewables portfolio standards encourage greater diversity of energy resources, enhancing reliability, by requiring that electricity providers include a minimum percentage of renewable energy resources in the electricity mix they deliver to their customers.” “The United States cannot produce its way out of oil dependence,” says NRDC’s Daniel Lashof. “What we can do is dampen U.S. consumption, which amounts to about 25 percent of world petroleum demand.” NRDC is a national organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists working to protect public health and the environment. It was founded in 1970 and claims to have 400,000 members.