State Senators Liz Krueger, Kevin Parker And Colleagues Call On Federal Government To Reduce Dependence On Foreign Oil And Increase Investments In Clean Energy Sources
<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />New York’s economy, in a massive transfer of wealth from working New Yorkers to big oil companies,” stated Senator Krueger. “If the cost of oil and gas remain at these incredibly high levels, the costs of almost all consumer products and all sectors of our state’s economy will be negatively impacted. While Hurricane Katrina did highlight the energy crisis for all Americans, we must take a very serious look at long-term proposals that seek to solve the ongoing problems that we face.”
The Senate is reconvening session today in order to vote on a variety of legislation that would grant tax credits and cap the sales tax on gas prices. The Assembly has been holding a series of Hearings on the energy crisis and have no plans to reconvene until January.
Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), the Ranking Minority Member of the Energy & Telecommunications Committee, criticized the Senate Majority for their feeble attempts at addressing the energy crisis. “These proposals are a quick fix to a problem that is going to require a coordinated effort between the federal government and state governments,” said Senator Parker. “Their plan (to cap the State’s portion of the gas tax) will probably do little to solve its intended purpose. There’s really nothing to stop the gas companies from raising their costs again, and hitting the pockets of working New Yorkers again.”
Senators Krueger and Parker cited a long list of facts that illustrate the complete lack of regulation of the energy industry:
- Oil prices more than tripled since late 2001 even before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast.
- Each day Americans are spending $288 million more on fuel than they did last year at this time, and $1 billion more than they did 3 years ago.
- Between 1999 and 2003 average household expenditures on gasoline, heating oil and natural gas increased more than 35%. Industry costs, however, did not increase during this period, leading to record profits for the petroleum industry.
- The price of heating oil has increased 30% since last year.
- If gas prices remain at their current average of $3.25 a gallon, NY drivers will pay $7.2 billion more than they did last year on gasoline.
- The highly concentrated nature of the oil and gas markets enables oil companies to keep prices high by withholding supply, thus prohibiting a fair market to develop.
The recently signed federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 only makes matters worse, according to Senator Krueger. The legislation provided tens of billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks to the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries, while weakening environmental and consumer protections. Most importantly it failed to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, failed to make any significant new investments in clean energy, and failed to protect consumers from the escalating cost of fuel.
Meanwhile, this year New York State was forced to stop accepting applications in May from low-income residents for assistance from the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) due to lack of sufficient federal funding, leaving tens of thousands of families and senior citizens to have to choose whether to purchase prescription drugs and food or to pay energy bills.
Senators Krueger and Parker made a series of suggestions about ways to resolve the energy crisis through a resolution proposed before the Senate today. The resolution, which passed unanimously, read, “the federal government should substantially increase investment in the research and development of alternative sources of energy, including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power; create a federal renewable portfolio standard that requires electricity providers to include a minimum level of clean energy resources in the electricity mix they deliver to consumers; expand the renewable-energy production credit to make renewable energy cost-competitive for consumers; introduce greater energy efficiency standards for appliances, heating equipment and electrical transformers; and end tax breaks and subsidies for non-renewable energy resources.”
Senator Krueger also criticized Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s plan to create a “Senior Heat” program to provide one-time rebate checks of $200 or more to seniors who are eligible for the Enhanced STAR property tax program. “This proposal sounds good on paper,” remarked Senator Krueger, “but it would only provide assistance to seniors who own homes. Essentially, seniors who need these funds the most – those who rent (not own) and fail to receive the STAR tax credit – will be punished.”
“The Senate Majority feels the need to address the energy crisis and I commend them for their call to action,” remarked Senator Krueger. “Yet we must be rational in these situations and work towards crafting legislation that will work to solve the problem, not merely place a band-aid on it. Today’s session will be remembered as an extended press conference in which one-house bills were passed. Why are we showing up for just one day, passing one-house bills, then wasting gas to drive back home. We should stay in session until we get something done.”