"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." - - - William Blum

June 23, 2007

Here's a good example of the mixed messages that Progressive organizations send to us. This first one I just received from the Union of Concerned Scientists, of which I'm a member:

Dear Michael,

I‘m writing to share wonderful news. Late last night the Union of Concerned Scientists and our allies won a major victory on fuel economy! Thanks in part to your numerous emails and phone calls, the Senate voted yesterday to substantially increase the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard of America's cars and trucks for the first time in over 30 years—setting a target of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

At a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, UCS staff were invited to stand up with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Senate leaders. UCS was explicitly recognized for our work in helping to get this critical legislation passed—work that we couldn’t have done without your help and support!

The next step will be to get these strong standards passed in the House and signed into law. We’ll need your help so look for more alerts in the months ahead.

But fuel economy standards were only part of the Energy Bill that was passed yesterday. Unfortunately, we were less successful in another one of our main objectives—increasing our use of clean, renewable electricity from sources like the sun, energy crops, and wind. UCS and a national coalition were blocked from adding a national renewable energy standard to the Senate energy bill by a small group of senators. But Senate leadership has committed to letting the standard be introduced as an amendment. We still have a good shot for a vote at some point this year.

UCS supporters and activists like you have played a pivotal role in convincing 23 states and the District of Columbia to adopt renewable energy standards. A federal standard is still one of the most practical solutions to global warming, so we'll be turning to you once again in the coming months to voice your support for a federal renewable electricity standard—and for passing the fuel economy standard in the House. But for today, let's take time to celebrate this historic moment!

A few minutes later, I received the following from Friends of the Earth:


The energy bill passed by the Senate was a major disappointment.

Last night the Senate passed a bill that shows us just how off the mark our nation currently is when it comes to confronting global warming. The upcoming battle in the House will be all the more important now.

As you know, the Senate took action after monumental pressure from groups and activists like us, but the result is by no means a major green victory. Consider the unfortunate facts:

1) The mandate for 36 billion gallons per year of "renewable" fuels will rely heavily on corn ethanol and imported palm oil. Production of corn ethanol requires: massive amounts of energy, 4-5 gallons of water per gallon of fuel, vast quantities of fertilizer and land. What's more, creating and using corn ethanol often produces just as much global warming pollution as gasoline! Palm oil has already led to mass deforestation in Southeast Asia, with any carbon savings offset by the burning of carbon-capturing trees. The protections in the Senate bill that take into account the threats posed by these fuels to our air, land and water are insufficient.

2) The much ballyhooed fuel standards are not only weak, they can be waived at the auto industry's request! First off, the new standard requires automakers' fleets to reach an average of 35 mpg 12 years from now, which isn't much given that hybrids on the road today average around 50 mpg. Second, incremental improvements for each year after the 2020 target date were removed, so we could well stop at 35 mpg once we get there. Third, we might not even get the 35 mpg in the first place, thanks to a provision that allows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to declare the regulations null and void should the auto industry persuade it that the standards cannot be reached without financial hardship. Finally, if this lame fuel standard gets signed into law, fuel economy legislation will likely be taken off the congressional agenda until 2020 (assuming NHTSA doesn't buckle to the auto industry before then).

3) What does this bill not include? Lots of good things were left out of this bill before passage, such as: mandates on use of renewable energy sources, like solar or wind; strong energy efficiency standards; and the elimination of tens of billions of dollars in tax giveaways to the wildly profitable oil and gas industry (money that would have gone to renewable resources).

While it's true that this is the best energy bill passed by the Senate in years, that is only in comparison to GOP legislation that aided and abetted global warming. Friends of the Earth believes that legislation must instead be judged by how it addresses the ongoing global crisis. By those standards, this bill is a bitter disappointment.

We hope to make the House bill an improvement over the Senate's, so that the final package emerging from Congress is one we can support. We will let you know how things are developing as the House brings legislation to the floor in July.

- Friends of the Earth

Goddamit, was it a good bill or a bad one??!! Fellow Progressives, we must do a better job of qualifying our message, or all those independents and Bush-weary Republicans are going to stay on the fence.

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