Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Energy Bill Up For Debate

The Senate is debating an energy bill today, and the House is considering similar legislation. The bill would increase automobile fuel efficiency and reduce home and office energy use.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said after a speech to the Center for American Progress yesterday that the increase in auto-fuel efficiency requirements, known as the corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards, would be the most controversial part of the Senate package. It orders auto companies to hit a 35-mile-per-gallon target by 2020 and improve mileage 4 percent a year after that.

"I know that the auto industry is still wavering on this issue," Reid said. "I met with the CEOs of the big three automakers last week, and here is what I told them: The debate on raising CAFE standards should be over. It will happen. And perhaps if they had joined us instead of fighting us these last 20 years, they might not be in the financial mess they're in today."


The energy package also features a boost in the use of renewable fuels for vehicles to 36 billion gallons by 2022, including 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and the rest from cellulosic ethanol sources.


Another moving element is renewable portfolio standards similar to those that have been adopted by many states. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) made a bargain with Republicans not to raise this in committee, but he plans to propose an amendment that would require utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources -- such as wind, solar, new hydropower, geothermal, landfill gases -- by 2020. Many big utilities say that isn't feasible.
Several other amendments will be up for debate, including ones that would promote offshore drilling and use of liquid coal. Other amendments would restrict the ability of individual states to set their own auto emissions standards and strip the EPA's authority to regulate automobile greenhouse gas emissions. NWF covers some of the amendments. (If you have senators, consider contacting them about the bill.)

Update: Modeshift considers the shortcomings of the Senate's energy bill, which does little to decrease reliance on automobiles as the primary form of transportation. He points to New York City as an example of leadership in pushing commuters towards mass transit rather than highways. (Speaking of New York, Mayor Bloomberg announced new energy initiatives today.) I tend to agree, but I think that the current bill is as good as we are likely to get from the federal government under current circumstances.