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Nation’s Largest Jewish Organization Disappointed by Congressional Failure to Address Global Warming

"Once again our nation has turned its back on a profound opportunity to make a difference, to set an example, to begin the work that will consume so many of us and our children in the next century."

Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, October 5, 1999 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today expressed deep disappointment in last night's 88-3 Senate vote to approve the Conference Report on the FY 2000 Transportation Appropriation bill (H.R. 2084).

The House passed the Conference Report by a large margin last Friday.

The Religious Action Center opposes the Transportation Appropriation bill because of a rider that proscribes government study of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Increasing CAFE standards is the largest and most meaningful step we can take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — and concomitantly global warming — in the United States. Until Congress gives the Department of Transportation the authority to study CAFE standards, the requirements cannot be improved.

The full text of Pelavin's statement follows:

Last night's Senate vote is a great disappointment to all of us who despair at the environmental degradation that continues at a reckless pace in today's world. The Senate appears to have allowed expediency — the desire to move the budgetary process along — to obscure principle — the need to address the urgent problem of global warming. The House did the same in its 304-91 vote last Friday.

Strengthening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars, minivans and other light trucks is perhaps the single most significant step we can take in curbing global warming, improving our air quality, and lessening our dependence on oil. Raising CAFE standards would reduce fuel consumption, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming. Furthermore, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), higher CAFE standards would create jobs. ACEEE estimates that the auto industry would gain 47,000 of the 244,000 net new jobs created nationwide as dollars saved at the gas pump are reinvested throughout the economy.

Our concern about global warming, and therefore about CAFE standards, flows from our tradition's many teachings about our responsibility as stewards of God's creation. As Jews, we are taught that the Earth is a precious gift from God, and that we must take care that it, in all its diversity, beauty, and splendor, is not harmed.

We cannot and we must not continue to turn our backs, as individuals or as a nation, on the literally disastrous effects that our industrial and post-industrial societies are having on the natural world. While it may be true that we have no answers to some of the environmental crises we have created, we cannot allow the fact that we cannot do everything everywhere to keep us from doing anything anywhere. As Jewish tradition teaches, "It is not for you to complete the work alone, but neither are you free to desist from it."

It is in this spirit that the Congress's action is such a profound disappointment: once again our nation has turned its back on a profound opportunity to make a difference, to set an example, to begin the work that will consume so many of us and our children in the next century. We urge the President not to allow the anti-CAFE rider to become law again. We cannot continue to desist.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.

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