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Reform Movement Calls on Senate to Strengthen Energy Bill

Pelavin: This energy bill has the potential to put America on a new course, one that displays our leadership and commitment to clean renewable resources.

Contact:Sean Thibault or Marc Katz
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June 14, 2007 | Washington DC—As the Senate considers energy policy legislation, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following letter to Senators highlighting the Reform Movement’s position on several key issues:

Dear Senator,

As the largest Jewish denomination in the country, we would like commend you for considering the crucial issue of energy and its impact on the environment in the 110th Congress.  As you begin to debate, discuss, and offer amendments to the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, we want to emphasize a few key points that we believe are crucial to making a successful energy bill:

·        Raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards is absolutely critical.  More efficient cars burn less gasoline, lowering CO2 emissions and reducing the demand for oil, much of which comes from environmentally and politically sensitive areas of the world. For these reasons, it is crucial that we raise CAFE standards to at least 35 mpg and close the loophole that has allowed reduced standards for SUVs.

·        It is important that we invest money in the research, development, and production of renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Senator Bingaman has proposed an amendment that would require major electric utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.  Renewable energy is clean, efficient, and sustainable, and it is important that we adopt legislation that makes this energy widely available, thus increasing access and lowering prices. Other amendments such as Sen. Domenici’s proposal, which would support alternatives such as nuclear power, would not be desirable, because although nuclear energy might be considered “clean” it produces dangerous waste and we have yet to resolve the problems of its disposal.

·        We support measures like the Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation (CLEAN Energy) Act of 2007 (HR 6) that is being considered as an amendment to the current energy package. In recent years, gas prices have skyrocketed, growing by 58 percent from 2000 to 2005.  In the meantime, oil companies’ profits have continued to grow.  In fact, Exxon Mobil recently earned $10.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006, setting a new all-time record for largest annual and quarterly profits for any United States business in history.  Instead of subsidizing this already profitable industry, it is crucial that the United States government aids the growing renewable energy sector.

·        The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge) stands as one of America’s last true wilderness areas. The Refuge coastal plain has enormous ecological, cultural, and spiritual significance.  As a habitat for hundreds of native species and home to the indigenous Gwitch’in tribe, the costal plane is an invaluable part of our natural and human world. While we debate and discuss plans to meet our energy needs, we must be dedicated to protecting this and other ecologically sensitive areas from drilling.

·        Finally, it is important that as we work to lower our oil consumption, we do not replace it with other ecologically harmful energy sources like coal.  While coal is cheap and domestically produced, its use has drastic consequences for the environment.  Mining coal involves the process of “mountaintop removal,” which destroys ecosystems and produces waste that pollutes our water and harms our health.  In some forms, burning coal can emit nearly double the greenhouse gasses as petroleum; a small car—such as a Honda Civic—running on liquid coal would have similar carbon emissions to a Humvee.

Our Jewish tradition commands us to protect God’s creation.  The biblical concept of Bal Tashchit (do not destroy) along with our mandate to “till and tend” our natural world (Genesis 2:15), emphasize the need to act as stewards of our environment, ensuring a safe world for ourselves and a clean and productive future for our children.

As you discuss and debate the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, we urge you to keep these concepts in mind.  This energy bill has the potential to put America on a new course, one that displays our leadership and commitment to clean renewable resources. We hope that you will work to make this possible.

Mark. J. Pelavin
Associate Director
ReligiousAction Centerof Reform Judaism


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis

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