October 02, 2014 · 8 Tishrei

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Reform Jewish Movement Disappointed by the Senate's Failure to Increase Fuel Economy Standards

"The Senate missed a historic opportunity to build a future when we will see our chariots - our technological prowess - as a means to ensure the health and safety of God's people and God's creation, not as an end to be venerated itself."

Contact: Alexis Rice or Michael Weiner 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2002 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement in response the Senate's decision yesterday to forego a provision of its comprehensive energy legislation (S. 517) mandating a significant increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, noting that "we will now pursue the conveniences of automobile technology with little concern for the responsibility the technology imposes on us."

The complete statement follows:

    We are extremely disappointed in the Senate's decision yesterday to forego a provision of its comprehensive energy legislation (S. 517) mandating a significant increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Increasing CAFE standards is the single biggest step that Congress can take to secure America's energy independence and to address the plague of global climate change. These issues are pressing, and it is the responsibility of our legislators to address them now - before the heat waves, rising sea levels and severe weather patterns likely to result from climate change become unmanageable and before our dependence on foreign oil further undermines our national security.

    It is not surprising that a wide range of religious leaders have written the Senate asking it to support higher CAFE standards. They view such a step as an effective means of enhancing our security even while protecting God's creation that has been entrusted to us.

    Instead, we will now pursue the conveniences of automobile technology with little concern for the responsibility the technology imposes on us. Testifying before the rulers of Jerusalem over two and a half millennia ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote, "Their land is full of silver and gold, there is no limit to their treasure; their land is full of horses, there is no limit to their chariots. Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have wrought" (Isaiah 2:7-8). To be sure, Isaiah wasn't concerned with fuel economy, but he was pointing out a lesson that is resoundingly relevant today. Chariots (ancient or modern), technology as a whole, power, even riches, are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. But when we become obsessed with ever bigger and more powerful chariots and forget their impact on the world around us, then we succumb to the sins about which Isaiah warned. Then our technological achievements and the pleasure of convenience they bring become our ends, our idols, with dire consequences for our souls, for our society and for the earth around us.

    The amendment passed by the Senate yesterday removes a provision of the energy bill that would have increased CAFE standards across the board to 36 miles-per-gallon by 2015, potentially saving the United States 1 million barrels of oil per day by 2016 and potentially preventing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. Instead, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency averse to any increase in fuel economy, would have the responsibility to reevaluate CAFE standards within the next 15 months. As a result of its decision, the Senate missed a historic opportunity to build a future when we will see our chariots - our technological prowess - as a means to ensure the health and safety of God's people and God's creation, not as an end to be venerated itself.

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    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .




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