Handing President Bush a huge victory, the House of Representatives late yesterday rejected a proposal to boost fuelefficiency standards for SUVs and approved oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The measures werepart of a sweeping energy bill containing over $33 billion in tax breaks and incentives for the power industry.
The bill was backed by a powerful coalition of the oil, gas, coal and nuclear power industries as well as organizedlabor. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the energy sector contributed nearly $65 million to federalcandidates and parties in 1999-2000, 75 percent to Republicans. One of the bill’s sponsors, Louisiana RepublicanBilly Tauzin, raked in nearly $200,000 in campaign contributions from energy companies. The bill’s other sponsorsalso received large donations.
A National Academy of Sciences report released earlier this week contradicted years of arguments by the autoindustry. It concluded that SUVs and trucks could achieve between 25-50% better mileage, at a cost which would becompletely offset by savings on fuel. Despite this, Democrats from auto-producing states joined a majority ofRepublicans to preserve leave gas mileage standards for SUVs almost unchanged, instead of raising them to the samelevel as cars.
A full-sized sport utility vehicle emits nearly 11 tons of carbon dioxide a year, an important global warming gas.That is almost twice as much as the mid-sized cars that have dominated the American road. In another vote yesterday,the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday unanimously approved a resolution calling on President Bush toreturn to the bargaining table this fall with specific proposals for either revising the Kyoto global warming treatyor negotiating a new binding agreement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Today we’re going to have a debate on SUVs, global warming, and the Bush Energy plan. We will be joined shortly byspokespeople from the Sierra Club and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. But we’re going to begin with KiethBradsher, the New York Times reporter who won a George Polk award for his investigative reporting on SUVs.
- Keith Bradsher, Detroit Bureau Chief for the New York Times.