National Energy Policy Report Too Weak To Stop Global Warming
NRDC Experts Cite Better Guidelines Set By Environmental and Corporate Communities
WASHINGTON (April 19, 2007) – Today the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) responded to the most recent report of the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) by acknowledging improvements in the recommendations that NCEP issued three years ago, while also noting continuing deficiencies in the Commission’s thinking.
“We are encouraged that the Commission now recommends reducing global warming pollution below current levels,” said Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC. “We are disappointed, however, that the Commission has failed to keep up with a growing coalition of environmentalists and business leaders who recognize that science demands greater and faster reductions in this pollution.”
Earlier this year NRDC joined 10 major corporations - including General Electric, BP, and DuPont - and three other nonprofits to form the U. S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). The platform of USCAP offers a more promising approach to solving global warming by proposing a package of near term and long term actions that would reduce global warming emissions below current levels within 10 years and by 60% to 80% from current levels by 2050.
“USCAP points the way in the debate over U.S. climate policy, which is to take sufficient action as soon as possible” noted David Hawkins, Director of NRDC’s Climate Center. “USCAP also has the full backing of the CEOs of the participating organizations.”
NCEP is composed of members spanning a diverse set of viewpoints, although each of the members participates as a private individual and not a representative of an organization. Serving in this private capacity was Ralph Cavanagh, who is also co-director of NRDC’s energy program. In its 2004 report NCEP called for a national energy policy that would begin to take action to fight global warming, but also set forth environmentally undesirable proposals on such matters as nuclear power subsidies and destructive oil and gas development. (See NRDC's comments regarding NCEP's recommendations in respect to advancing commercial nuclear power.)
NRDC has endorsed bills already introduced in Congress that aim for an 80 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2050, the level scientists say is necessary to prevent the worst effects of global warming. These bills include the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act (S. 309) sponsored by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 1590) sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
“While the NCEP report contains many useful climate and energy policy recommendations, I share NRDC’s views on U.S. climate policy,” Cavanagh said.
NRDC has mixed views about the Commission’s other recommendations. Those on energy efficiency and renewable energy are admirable, and the Commission has added valuable new details to its earlier support for measures to reduce U.S. oil dependence through improvements in federal fuel economy standards. The report also takes a strong stand against “grandfathering” new coal-fired power plants against future regulation or directing federal subsidies to coal technologies that do not dispose responsibly of their global warming pollution.
However, NCEP continues to push for an inventory of oil and gas resources in exceptionally fragile marine environments that could never endure development.
Other recommendations would put the public’s health and safety at risk by suggesting that Congress undermine existing standards for disposal of highly toxic nuclear waste. Moreover, although NCEP condemns as ill-conceived the administration's rapid effort to ramp up the construction of commercial-size facilities to use plutonium in power plants, in this very same document NCEP unwisely encourages research into the use of these and other plutonium technologies. Fostering such energy options will make plutonium more readily available than it otherwise would be for diversion to destructive purposes by interests and states hostile to the U.S., increasing national security risks.
“Global warming is the most crucial issue facing the planet, and we must strive to find a solution that meets that challenge,” Beinecke concluded.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.