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My colleague wrote an entry earlier this week about the energy bill put forward by the House of Representatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. As he mentioned, the bill’s strongest feature is a national 15% renewable energy portfolio standard to be implemented by 2020 (the target was reduced from 20% earlier this month as a compromise to southern states who don’t have the same level of hydro and wind resources). Noticeably absent, were new Fuel Economy (aka “CAFE “) standards, which were the landmark feature of the Senate’s energy bill passed earlier this summer.
Enter the conference committee, which will convene September 4th to reconcile the two bills. House majority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-California), has not been shy about her advocation for higher fuel economy standards. Her comments after the bill passed on Saturday without it’s inclusion only confirmed what many believe was a strategic play to drop it from the house bill, only to push it’s inclusion in the consensus bill put forward by the conference committee. In her words, “I don’t want to be coy about it — it’s something I support.”
Enter concerned citizens like ourselves. We have less than a month to write letters and make calls to our state representatives lobbying for the most important features of both bills (do not doubt that industry lobbyist are beating the war drums). I have outlined my list from the two bills below (please add to and comment):
- Roughly 40% increase in Fuel Economy Standards by 2020 (overall fleet average must increase from 27.5 to 35 MPG), with SUVs, small trucks and vans falling under same regulation as passenger cars.
- 36 billion gallon renewable fuels standard by 2022, including the specification that at least 60 percent of the requirement must be met by “next generation” biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.
- New appliance and lighting efficiency standards, as well as a requirement that the federal government accelerate the use of more efficient lighting in public buildings.
- $50 billion of federal loan guarantees for innovative power plants generating clean energy (notably includes Nuclear generation, which the House’s $7 billion guarantee program for energy and water specifically excludes). I will not venture an opinion on Nuclear power here, there are too many issues surrounding the true costs of projects and the long-term environmental damage associated with waste – best left to another entry.
- Repeal of $16 billion in tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry, shifting the money into programs to boost biofuels, renewable energy and efficiency programs.
- $3.5 billion to install E-85 pumps and expand production of cellulosic ethanol.
- 15% National Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”), which notably allows a 4% contribution from Energy Efficiency Measures (a good idea, but somewhat mis-leading, RPS = 11%, especially considering that EE measures would probably occur autonomously given market incentives and the corresponding technology improvements).
These are some of the most salient features of both bills which I hope are included in in the consensus bill (I don’t necessarily agree with the Senate’s $50 billion in loan guarantees for 28 new nuclear reactors, mainly because if Nuclear generation had to compete evenly with renewables and clean-coal I think the truer costs of nuclear generation and waste would become clearer).
Get on your podium, turn on the loudspeakers and get behind the congressmen who need our support. Similarly, let’s make those like representative, John Dingell (D-Michigan) aware of the consequences if they continue to block meaningful legislation to protect the special interests that support them.
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