2001 Scorecard Vote
Environmentalists criticized President Bush's national energy plan, released on May 17, 2000, for emphasizing polluting fossil fuel development and production at the expense of cleaner renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies. Key features of the president's plan were incorporated into the House energy bill, H.R. 4.
If signed into law, H.R. 4 would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public lands to oil drilling and other energy development and would give polluting energy companies more than $38 billion in new or expanded taxpayer-funded handouts. The oil and gas industries alone would receive more than $21 billion in subsidies, mostly through tax breaks. For example, H.R. 4 would:
- Extend and expand the credit for "non-conventional" fuels by $2.8 billion over the next ten years. This subsidy is now largely used to encourage destructive coal bed methane drilling, which is responsible for contaminating drinking water supplies in the West.
- Increase the amount of tax deductions that oil and gas producers with low-producing wells can take. These deductions could cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion over five years.
The coal industry would receive more than $5.8 billion in handouts, including tax incentives for installing "advanced clean coal technology," which, despite its name, still produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and other pollutants. H.R. 4 would also create a federally funded research and development program called the Clean Coal Power Initiative to ensure that coal remains a cost-competitive source of electricity.
The nuclear power industry would receive more than $2.7 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, including funding for research on reducing the toxicity of nuclear waste through reprocessing. According to a Department of Energy report to Congress, these technologies could, over the next century, cost upward of $280 billion and would still not eliminate the need for a repository for highly radioactive wastes. The research program would also reverse a decade-old U.S. policy against the reprocessing of commercial nuclear fuel because it creates weapons grade plutonium.
Environmental groups argued that a national energy strategy should provide consumers with clean, affordable energy that protects the environment. H.R. 4, by contrast, would provide massive handouts for polluting fossil fuel producers and developers at the expense of the environment and U.S. taxpayers. On August 1, 2001, the House approved H.R. 4 by a 240-189 vote (House roll call vote 320). NO is the pro-environment vote. At press time, the Senate had yet to act on comprehensive energy legislation introduced by Senator Thomas Daschle (D-SD).