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DATE: March 5, 2001
CONTACT: Craig Cheslog, Redefining Progress
510-444-3041, x316

Redefining Progress Urges Development of Policies to Reduce
Nation's Fossil Fuel Dependence While Addressing Social Equity Issues

OAKLAND—In written testimony submitted for a hearing focusing on the impact of Federal tax laws on the cost and supply of energy held today by the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Ways and Means, Redefining Progress urged Congress to reduce our nation's dependency on fossil fuels and alleviate the inequities caused by our nation's over-reliance on fossil fuels.

"While the policy discussion has so far emphasized increasing the supply of energy by increasing fossil fuel production, a comprehensive energy policy must encourage supply alternatives and equitable demand reduction," writes Mark Glickman, an economist and director of Redefining Progress' Accurate Prices program. "Federal taxes should improve price signals reflecting scarcity and environmental costs, not obfuscate them."

"In the case of energy, taxes need to reflect the real scarcity of resources and the significant social and environmental impacts of energy use. The numerous tax breaks that subsidize fuel energy prices must be phased out," added Glickman. "Federal energy tax laws should focus on leveling the playing field for renewable sources of energy, reducing demand through conservation and efficiency measures, and accounting for high health and environmental costs. Consumers, our environment, and our economy will benefit from these changes."

There are also important equity concerns that have not been adequately addressed during the current energy debate. "Continued over-reliance on fossil fuel will disproportionately expose the poor and communities of color to respiratory problems related to air pollution, deaths and disease related to thermal extremes, and increasingly unacceptable trade-offs among basic necessities every time we hit another price shock," writes Glickman. "Make no mistake about it, the longer we continue down the fossil fuel path, the harsher and more widespread these impacts will become."

The testimony includes a series of suggestions for the questions raised by the focus of the hearing. These suggestions included fashioning a market-based approach to reducing emissions, creating honest and fair accounting methods for fossil fuels pricing, eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas exploration and production, avoiding new subsidies for nuclear energy and so-called clean-coal technology, and establishing policies that will reduce demand for fossil fuels by accurately pricing these resources by including in their price tag the value of their scarcity and their related health and environmental costs.

Redefining Progress is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Oakland that develops policies and tools that reorient the economy to care for people and nature first. RP does this by developing policies that internalize the economy's hidden social and environmental costs, that transform the human use and distribution of the Earth's natural resources, and that restore the value of shared social and natural assets.