The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Energy Bill Offers Weak Emissions Caps, Off-Shore Drilling

by Megan Tady

Mar. 21, 2007 – While promoting energy security, senators introduced a corporate-backed bill last week that would allow for off-shore oil drilling.

Sponsors of the Security and Fuel Efficiency (SAFE) Energy Act of 2007, Senators Byron Dorgan (D–North Dakota) and Larry Craig (R–Idaho), say the bill will improve the United States’s energy security by cutting oil dependence in half by 2030. The bill would increase fuel-efficiency standards for new vehicles by 4 percent per year from 2012 to 2030 and increase the availability and public funding of some alternative fuels.

But the bill would also allow US companies to drill for oil in the Outer Continental Shelf in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and to make an inventory of gas reserves in the Southeastern Seaboard.

The legislation mirrors recommendations made to Congress in 2006 by the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC) – a coalition of corporations. The coalition includes representatives of Dow Chemical, Fed Ex, Waste Management and Southwest Airlines.

As previously reported by The NewStandard, critics of off-shore drilling say the consequences include the erosion of wetlands, air-polluting emissions, chemical contamination, the dumping of industrial waste and debris and the depletion of fish populations.

Jim Presswood, energy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said that the fuel efficiency standards are a "step in the right direction." The NRDC, however, has been calling for an increase of fuel standards for new vehicles to 40 miles per gallon by 2012, the year this bill would only start mandating modest increases. The bill also allows the Secretary of Transportation some leeway in mandating the increases if she or he concludes they are not technologically achievable, would jeopardize vehicle safety or are not cost-effective.

Presswood rebuked the bill for its off-shore-drilling provision. "There are so many other opportunities to break our energy dependency," he told The NewStandard, "that it just makes no sense to open up more areas to drilling."

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

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Megan Tady is a staff journalist.

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