1984 Scorecard Vote
Unless and until new pollution control technologies are invented, the commercial development of synthetic fuels from coal and oil shale will create massive environmental problems. These include air pollution, groundwater contamination, and huge toxic waste disposal problems. A single commercial plant for synfuels could generate from 20 to 60 thousand tons of solid waste a day. Yet in a frantic response to the oil crisis in the 1970s, Congress appropriated $17.7 billion not for research, but for the immediate commercial development of synthetic fuels.
Despite the huge subsidies available, private industry has become less and less interested in developing synthetic fuels, because they cannot be produced cheaply enough to compete with other energy sources in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately the Synthetic Fuels Corporation (SFC), which was set up by Congress to spend the money, has responded by indiscriminately funding the few remaining synfuel proposals, regardless of merit. By providing up to $3 billion for a single synfuels technology, the SFC is promoting far larger projects, with far greater environmental damage, than are needed to test their technical and economic feasibility.
This vote was on the Bradley-Nickles amendment to eliminate $9 billion of the SFC's remaining $13.3 billion spending authority. After the House had cut $5 billion from the SFC, the synfuels industry agreed to a similar cut in the Senate. But Bradley and Nickles joined environmental groups in urging that another $4 billion should be cut. Under this amendment, the SFC would have been left with $4.3 billion, which is still a much larger subsidy than the federal government provides for conservation and renewable energy resources.
The Bradley-Nickles amendment was rejected 37-60; October 3, 1984. YES is the pro-environmental vote. (Bradley-Nickles amendment to the fiscal 1985 Continuing Appropriations bill, H.J. Res. 648.) The Reagan Administration opposed the amendment. In the end, Congress cut about $5.4 billion from the SFC.