Americans rely upon energy to power modern society. As such, the United States consumes the most energy per capita in the world. But the energy producing companies have used this dependence to enrich themselves and despoil the air wand land. We as a nation can and must do better. The path to a sustainable energy future demands that we focus on energy efficient technologies, renewable energy resources, and less dependence on other nations for our energy supply.
We must also guard against abusive practices of monopolistic energy companies. Energy prices continue to climb as service quality lessens. We pay more for electricity and get more blackouts in return. Natural gas and gasoline prices continue to climb. Consumers cannot continue to see large increases in their energy bills every year.
Gasoline Measurement Standards
Home Heating Costs
Renewable Fuel from Algae
Holding FirstEnergy Accountable
Electric Transmission Corridors
Dangers at Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant
Northeastern United States 2003 Blackout
Deregulation of the Electric Industry
View press releases and related documents on energy
The fastest way to bring relief of record gas prices is to eliminate price gouging by the oil companies and to reduce demand. The Gas Price Spike Act of 2008 will discourage price gouging and reduce demand by implementing the following items:
1) A Windfall Profits Tax
I propose to implement a windfall profit tax on gasoline and diesel. The tax is to be imposed on key oil industry profits that are above a reasonable rate of return. If oil companies are collecting excessive profits, they should be subject to a stiff tax on those excessive profits. The threat of heavy taxation will send a clear signal to oil companies that price gouging will not pay.
2) Tax Credit for the Purchase of Fuel Efficient Vehicles
The bill would give the revenue from the windfall profits tax through a $6,000 tax credit to Americans who buy fuel-efficient cars made in America. Vehicles eligible for the tax credit would be in the top 10% in efficiency. The credit would be phased in, and cars that achieve 65 mpg would receive a full tax credit. Today average cars get less than 30 mpg. This tax credit will stimulate the market in ultra efficient vehicles.
3) Federal Grants for Reduced Mass Transit Fares
It is the working class and working poor in America that are hit hardest by this gas price crisis. In an effort to provide relief, the bill makes funding available to regional transit authorities to offset significantly reduced mass transit fares during times of gas price spikes. Providing low-cost mass transit will slow demand for gas and ease the price of gasoline, benefiting all Americans.
The Gas Price Spike Act of 2008 currently had 66 cosponsors in the 110th Congress.
Congressman Kucinich also introduced the “Lower Gasoline Prices through Technology Access Act of 2000” which addressed one of the reasons the oil industry has blamed for the high price of gasoline, especially reformulated gasoline (RFG) in the Midwest. Several recently issued patents for reformulated gasoline are deterring the industry from making RFG, and are making RFG more expensive for consumers. The legislation ensures that all oil companies have fair access to these patents by preventing monopolistic control of this important clean air technology. This will lead to lower gasoline prices because it will make the process for manufacturing RFG available to all oil companies.
Gasoline Measurement Standards
The amount of gasoline by weight in a gallon pumped during the summer months is less than the same gallon pumped during winter. Oil companies have been aware of the thermal expansion of gasoline for more than 100 years, and since the 1920’s, they have compensated for this variation in transactions at the wholesale level. But they have not compensated for temperature at the retail level. The result is that the oil companies can buy gasoline at one temperature and sell it at another. Existing technology that can correct for temperature at the retail level (known as Automatic Temperature Compensation or ATC) has been available for sale in Canada since the 1980’s, and recently, the State of California certified it for use there. The oil industry opposes the deployment of this technology in the United States.
The Domestic Policy Subcommittee had two hearings and issued two reports. The reports estimated the national hot fuel premium to be about $1.5 billion in 2007, and the Ohio hot fuel premium to be between $31 and $34 million. The hearings were entitled, “Hot Fuel: Big Oil’s Double Standard for Measuring Gasoline” and “ExxonMobil and Shell Answer Questions about Hot Fuel.”
Home Heating Costs
Congressman Kucinich is working to address the rapidly rising costs of home heating. Whether you use natural gas or fuel oil to heat your home, the prices have escalated beyond any reasonable standard. In response, Congressman Kucinich with Congressman Sanders has introduced H.R. 4420, the Home Heating Fairness Act of 2005. The legislation will increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) by $22.38 billion over the next decade. By doing so, millions of senior citizens on fixed incomes, low-income families with children and persons with disabilities to stay warm during winter and make their homes more energy efficient. Repealing several tax loophole and subsidies that only benefit the oil and natural gas companies will pay for the costs of this legislation. The bill will bring relief, and warmth, to working families and to end price gouging by the big oil and gas companies.
Here in the United States, we use more than twenty million barrels of oil a day on transportation alone. According to the Energy Information Administration, this country imports 58% of the petroleum consumed here. Congressman Kucinich successfully attached two amendments to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that will contribute to the growth of renewable energy in the United States.
The first amendment directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a feasibility study of mustard seed as a feedstock for biodiesel. Mustard seed has many advantages over other feedstocks including higher oil content, it's easier to grow in the colder and drier climates of the US, and the conversion process leaves behind an organic pesticide and herbicide. Initial research studies by the University of Idaho and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have shown favorable results.
Congressman Kucinich believes farmers are the key to eliminating our dependency on foreign oil. Farmers have many growing options for biomass feedstocks, but it is imperative that we find the best feedstocks that will eliminate are dependency as soon as possible.
This amendment won a bipartisan approval on the House floor by a vote of 259 to 171, including 68 Republicans.
The second amendment attached by Congressman Kucinich and Congresswomen Kaptur from Toledo, Ohio doubles the number of Department of Energy Clean City programs that could apply for a pilot program to invest in alternative fuel vehicles. The amendment ensures more cities benefit from alternative fuel vehicles.
Farmers and our urban centers can work together to eliminate our foreign dependency on oil. Farmers grow biomass feedstocks that can then be processed locally to supply nearby cities such as Cleveland and Toledo. Farmers benefit with new and more stable markets, our fuel supply is homegrown thus reducing our dependence on foreign oil, fuel prices are reduced and the air we breathe is cleaner. The goal is to use northern Ohio as a showcase for a sustainable energy system from farm to city.
Renewable Fuel from Algae
Yields from biodiesel alternatives like soybeans or canola only amount to approximately 60-100 gallons per acre per year. However, under controlled conditions, certain algal species can produce 8,000 to 12,000 gallons per year per acre.
As the debate about energy independence continues, Congressman Kucinich is committed to finding viable alternative energy sources. Congressman Kucinich advocated $2 million in funding for research into the potential of growing, harvesting and extracting oils from algae. The oils could be converted to fuel used for civilian as well as commercial applications.
Holding FirstEnergy Accountable
Congressman Kucinich continued to maintain oversight of FirstEnergy and the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. In March 2007, he sent a letter to the Administrator of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) demanding the NRC deny FirstEnergy the ability to bypass special safety requirements, which the NRC mandated after a near meltdown at the Davis-Besse facility in Northeast Ohio. The NRC subsequently announced that FirstEnergy would continue to adhere to its special safety requirements.
FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company withdrew its request to eliminate two years of independent evaluations of the operations at Davis-Besse. Congressman Kucinich, Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, wrote a letter to the NRC after FirstEnergy asked the NRC to be relieved of mandatory independent assessments of its operating performance. NRC imposed a requirement of independent assessments on FirstEnergy after FirstEnergy’s mismanagement and efforts to evade its detection nearly resulted in a disaster at the Davis-Besse Nuclear facility near Cleveland, when in February 2002, a football-sized crater was found in the reactor vessel.
The NRC later reported that the plant might have been as close as 60 days to bursting the slim steel liner that stood in the way of radioactive release into the air.
In November 2007, FirstEnergy’s Perry Nuclear Power Plant was shut down on an emergency basis. In response, Congressman Kucinich sent a letter to the NRC requesting a briefing on the findings of its special inspection of the facility.
The NRC was notified in the early morning of November 28, 2007, that the Perry Nuclear Power Plant had automatically shut down and that two water cooling pumps malfunctioned and portions of the backup systems failed. The NRC announced that it would conduct a special inspection of the plant.
Congressman Kucinich’s letter to the NRC detailed the history of poor management at the plant and requested a briefing as soon as is “reasonably practicable.” The NRC has stated that its inspection would be finished in seven days, with a report to follow in 45 days.
On both occasions, Congressman Kucinich called for the revocation of operating permits for both Perry and Davis-Besse. FirstEnergy is the same company that was responsible for a massive power blackout, which forced parts of eight states and part of Canada into darkness in the summer of 2003.
Electric Transmission Corridors
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) included a provision, Section 1221, which gave the federal government new powers to authorize the citing of electric transmission lines and grant eminent domain authority to energy companies seeking to construct those transmission lines. Traditionally, this was the exclusive authority of the States. The hearing examined the Department of Energy’s (DOE) implementation of Section 1221 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and its upcoming designation of regions of the country as National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs). DOE’s designations could have a profound impact on property owners and citizens living within the corridors, the country’s energy infrastructure, and the environment. The hearing looked at the implications of the law for private and public land use. The hearing was entitled, “Federal Electric Transmission Corridors: Consequences for Public and Private Property.”
Dangers at Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant
Congressman Kucinich filed a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in February of 2003 to revoke FirstEnergy’s license to operate the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant. The petition was prompted by the discovery of a hole in the lid of the reactor. The purpose of the petition is to ensure the safety of the millions of people who live in northeast Ohio, as well as the largest freshwater supply in the nation safety.
The petition to the NRC seeks to ensure that Davis-Besse is fully and completely inspected before restarting the reactor. Once the license is revoked, FirstEnergy or another energy company may reapply for the license. If the corporation can prove that it meets all requirements for a new license, it may continue to operate the plant.
In October of 2003, Congressman Kucinich sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that revealed the conclusions to a several month investigation into the NRC reactor safety process. An examination of internal documents and emails revealed that the Reactor Oversight Process remains subjective and is easily manipulated to deliver whatever result the NRC wishes to obtain.
In May of 2004, the General Accounting Office released a scathing report on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s handling of the crisis at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant. The report was jointly requested by Congressman Kucinich (D-OH), Senator Voinovich (R-OH) and Congressman LaTourette (R-OH).
The GAO Report entitled, ‘NRC Needs to More Aggressively and Comprehensively Resolve Issues Related to the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant Shutdown’, concludes that the NRC that should have identified and prevented the hole in the reactor head at the plant. The report also finds that the NRC, which is in charge of regulating the nuclear industry, lacks a credible process to close a dangerous reactor. This report portrays regulators stripped of the tools to regulate, leaving the NRC little more than a rubber stamp for the industry.
Congressman Kucinich will continue to be a watchdog over the restart process of the Davis Besse nuclear power plant to ensure that the millions of citizen living downwind of the reactor remain safe. Read a press release from Congressman Kucinich regarding the GAO report on Davis-Besse or read the report regarding Davis-Besse.
In June of 2004, the Congressman asked the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to encourage the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to address the recommendations found in the May 2004 General Accounting Office report.
The 2003 Blackout
In August of 2003, Congressman Kucinich filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today to revoke FirstEnergy Corporation's license to operate in Northeast Ohio. FirstEnergy’s long history of management failures and role in the blackout have left many in Northeast Ohio with no faith in their electric utility company.
The 10-page complaint, filed in Columbus, cites multiple violations of federal and state regulations, as well as ‘Enron like’ accounting, as the reason that FirstEnergy is not suitable or capable to serve the residents of Northeast Ohio.
As a result of deregulation, FirstEnergy, like many power companies has been driven by a motivation to put profit above the public interest. This culture, has led to a lack of maintenance and deterioration of their infrastructure. These factors, not new to FirstEnergy, played a major role in the blackout that caused 50 million people to lose power. Federal investigations searching for the causes of the blackout have since confirmed the complicity of FirstEnergy in the blackout.
Deregulation of the Electric Industry
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has fought vigorously to place his constituents’ interests first every time they flip on a light. In Washington, D.C. and many states, including Ohio, policy makers are deregulating the electricity industry. The debate has focused on benefiting the electricity companies and large energy users, while residential consumers have been ignored.
More than half the states have deregulated, and they all lacked the consumer protections, fair markets and environmental protections necessary. This has led to a general failure of deregulated electricity markets. Wholesale electricity prices have increased nationwide. The extensive failure of deregulation in California has left many consumers with massive electricity bills while the power generation companies reaped record profits. The Progressive Caucus, chaired by Kucinich, released THE PROGRESSIVE PRO-CONSUMER SOLUTION TO TODAY'S ELECTRICITY CRISIS: Just and Reasonable Rates, a Tellus Institute report that detailed this failure and provided a pro-consumer solution.
Congressman Kucinich has also cosponsored an innovative new bill that provides incentives for expanding public power systems. This legislation, authored by Congressman Nadler (D-NY) and Congressman Hinchey (D-NY) provides for a Community Power Investment Revolving Loan Fund to provide for low-interest funds, blocks private power companies from interfering in the expansion of public power systems and reforms the tax system to ensure tax-exempt bonds can be used for public power systems.
Congressman Kucinich’s activities build upon past actions. The Congressman introduced H.R. 2645, the “Electricity Consumer, Worker and Environmental Protection Act of 1999.” The bill, which would significantly restructure the electric power industry, was introduced to protect the interests of consumers and the environment. Until this legislation was introduced, most legislative proposals for utility deregulation increase rates and increase the amount of pollution emitted into the environment, because they were written to benefit large industrial consumers and the utilities serving them.
HR 2645 will likely result in almost $500 billion in savings for residential consumers. The bill protects consumers and makes the electricity industry more worker friendly and more environmentally safe.
- would set universal standards of service for residential customers;
- allow more of a choice among electricity providers;
- allows consumers to unite as townships and as buying clubs to save money;
- includes provisions for environmental protection of air quality;
- raises the bar on the pollution emission standards for global warming gases and heavy metals;
- creates affordable electric service for low- and moderate-income residential customers;
- supports renewable energy and energy efficiency;
- ensures consumer privacy is protected;
- protects consumer from market power abuses and anti-competitive mergers;
- and provides protection for workers in a deregulated industry.
Summary of The Electricity Consumer, Worker, and Environmental Protection Act of 1999
This bill impacts both states that have chosen to deregulate and those that haven't. Title I contains several consumer protections for all states. Title II contains important additional protections just for the states that have chosen to deregulate. It is important to note that this bill does not mandate that any state deregulate the electricity industry. Instead, this bill includes provisions to protect consumers, workers, and the environment regardless of whether a state chooses to deregulate or not.
The following are Title I changes that will impact everyone:
This bill requires that all power plants should meet the same standards for pollution regardless of power plant age or fuel type. The following pollution standards are to be established starting in 2005:
- nitrogen oxides, a 79 percent decrease from 1990 emissions. This is intended to result in an emission rate of 0.15 pounds of nitrogen oxides per million BTUs;
- sulfur dioxide, a 77 percent decrease from 1990 emissions. This is intended to result in an emission rate of 0.30 pounds of sulfur dioxide per million BTUs;
- carbon dioxide, a 10 percent decrease from 1990 emissions by 2005, a 25 percent decrease by 2010, and a 80 percent decrease by 2030;
- mercury emissions are to be eliminated by 2010;
- high-level nuclear waste, a reduction of the production of radiation (in curies) by 5 percent by 2000, and 2 percent for each year after 2005;
- low-level nuclear waste, a reduction of the production of radiation (in curies) by 25 percent by 2000, and 5 percent for each year after 2005;
Public Benefit Funds
National electric public benefit board will oversee the collection and distribution of a 0.7 cents/kWh fund, which one third will be used to support affordable electric service for low- and moderate-income people. The remaining funds will used for protecting workers affected by electricity deregulation and to support renewable energy, and energy efficiency.
Renewable energy portfolio standards
Total generation from renewable resources, including biomass, landfill gas, geothermal, solar, or wind resources, must equal 5% of all sales by 2005 and 10% by 2010, not including hydroelectric sources. Tradable renewable credits can be used by electricity suppliers to meet their RPS obligations.
Net-metering & interconnection standards
Allows the owner of a renewable energy source of 2 megawatts or less to reduce their electricity bill by the amount of electricity produced.
A distributor or supplier of electricity must obtain the written permission of a customer before it can release customer-specific information.
All electricity distributors and suppliers must offer their customers deferred payment plans and equal-monthly-budget billing plans.
All electricity distributors and suppliers must issue bills that disclose:
- understandable descriptions of all services and charges;
- a percentage breakdown of the sources of electricity (specifically biomass, coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear, oil, solar, wind, power from municipal waste incinerators, other resources), a pie-chart showing these percentage breakdowns;
- a table showing actual pollutant emissions (specifically particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, high-level nuclear waste, and low-level nuclear waste);
Office of consumer counsel
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must create an office of consumer counsel to represent the interests of consumers in matters before FERC.
Prohibition of power plant bailouts
It shall be unlawful for any federal or state authority to require consumers to subsidize, directly or indirectly, the costs of owning or operating any power plant owned by an investor-owned company.
Distribution service and supply service quality standards
Distributors and suppliers of electricity will be benchmarked and ranked by a nation-wide, publicly-available index that measures consumer concerns in multiple areas.
Prohibition of affiliate abuses and cross-subsidies
Investor-owned utilities or their holding companies cannot be involved in any non-regulated business and cannot provide any non-regulated services.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission cannot approve a merger if the merger would violate antitrust law, if it would reduce the number of suppliers in any geographic market, or if probable efficiencies could be achieved by other means.
Power plant owners must ensure that workers have the necessary skills to safely perform their jobs. This bill requires all power plants to comply with standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This bill requires new owners of power plants to offer to rehire the current power plant workers at similar wage rates and benefits.
The following are Title II changes that will impact deregulated states
Aggregation of Consumers
Nonprofit public aggregation. States must permit consumers to establish options for nonprofit public aggregation in the form of new municipal electric systems; franchise contracts; community choice aggregation; or cooperative buying clubs in unincorporated areas. These nonprofit aggregators may control funds collected for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
Prohibition of cost-shifting. No class of consumers can be charged rates for transmission or distribution service in excess of the class' proportional responsibility for the costs of providing these services. State regulatory commissions must adjust access charges if the rate differential between residential and industrial customers exceeds three percent.
Distributors must arrange for the provision of basic electricity service for consumers who do not select a supplier, or when suppliers are not able to provide service. Basic service will be provided by suppliers chosen through competitive bids. Consumers have the right to receive basic electricity service at prices that do not vary by time of day or season.
Change of supplier
A customer may change his electric supplier at any time.
Distribution service disconnections and supply terminations
All customers must be protected from unreasonable service disconnections and unreasonable supply terminations. A seller may not disconnect or terminate the customer's electric service for failure to pay for products or services other than electricity, or without providing adequate notice to the customer, or when a tenant's landlord fails to pay for service, or when a physician declares a medical emergency in a household.
Credit and collection practices
Distributors that bill for suppliers must allocate a customer's partial payment first to services regulated by the state regulatory authority, and then to the unregulated portion of the bill. A retail supplier may not refuse to grant credit to any applicant, as stipulated by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Deposits required by retail suppliers may not exceed the applicant's estimated bill for a two-month period.
Unfair trade practices
The following practices must be prohibited: cramming; slamming; the provision by suppliers to consumers of gifts of more than $50 in value; and misleading advertising.
Prohibition of affiliate abuses and cross-subsidies.
Investor owned utilities must transfer transmission and distribution assets to a regulated transmission company and a regulated distribution company. These transmission and distribution companies:
- cannot have any affiliation whatsoever, or use the name, logo, or trademark, of any company that owns, operates, or leases generation facilities, or that sells electricity in wholesale or retail markets;
- cannot own any security of any other company; and must provide all goods and services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.
Prohibition of excessive generation market power
Investor-owned generation companies and their affiliates cannot own more than 20% of a state's baseload power plants, peaking power plants, and power plants that primarily provide ancillary services.
Electric utilities can recover the costs of programs that provide for voluntary severance, job retraining, early retirement, continued health care, outplacement and related benefits. States should consider extended unemployment benefits to utility employees terminated due to electricity deregulation. Utilities must prepare plans through which the utility intends to mitigate the impacts of workforce reduction on employees.