By Dan Shapley
An historic boost to fuel economy, but no new incentives for alternative energy
The Senate approved the first major increase to the nation's fuel economy standards in a generation, but the environmental win didn't come without big compromises on other portions of the energy bill. And the new standards will still face intense lobbying from automobile makers as the House considers similar upgrades. The increased fuel economy of the nation's automobile fleet will lead to significant savings in gasoline, and household gasoline expenditures, as the average fuel economy increases from about 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020. That will cut per capita carbon emissions and help the nation move toward "energy independence" from the volatile politics that embroil oil-producing nations. Public opinion polls have shown strong public support for new rules for years. But the Senate backed off three other progressive proposals in the course of debate. Here's what the Senate energy bill does not include:
- Required increases to vehicle fuel economy after 2020. The Senate had considered a 4% annual increase after 2020.
- Tax incentives for renewable power sources. The Senate had considered redirecting tax incentives currently benefiting oil companies.
- Required investment by regional utilities in renewable fuels. The Senate had considered telling utilities to draw 15% of their energy from renewable sources, a provision that several states require of their power companies.
The Senate energy bill is a major disappointment. The bill takes baby steps toward halting global warming when giant leaps are required and possible," Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder said. While the new fuel economy standards -- if approved by the House -- represent a laudable milestone, the Senate missed several other historic opportunities. Will the 2007 energy bill be seen as a milestone in the push toward a new cleaner energy economy? History will decide, according to a story in the June 22 Los Angeles Times.