The House of Representatives passed its version of an energy bill late Saturday night, calling for some progressive measures that the Senate did not, but choosing not to pick a fight on a contentious and fundamental issue -- the fuel efficiency of cars.
While the Senate won praise for passing an upgrade to the nation's fuel economy -- from about 25 mpg to 35 mpg in five years -- the House chose not to have a fight on the issue. It did find consensus on other progressive points that the Senate did not approve -- like a renewable energy mandate that requires utilities to find a percentage of their power from wind, solar, biomass or other renewable sources. The House also voted to remove $16 billion in subsidies that had benefited the oil industry.
The House bill also would also require the federal government to become "carbon neutral," and it would outlaw traditional incandescent light bulbs by 2012. Alternative bulbs, like compact fluorescents and the emerging light emitting diode (LED) bulbs use far less electricity to produce the same amount of light.
President Bush has threatened to veto bills that don't include more money for new fossil fuel exploration. The real work starts now. When the Senate and House meet in conference committee to reconcile the two pieces of legislation, it will amount to a new writing of a bill. What will be included? The best possible scenario is that both the House's renewable energy and Senate's fuel economy standards will survive the cut, despite the lack of support in one house each.
The importance of this can't be understated. Global warming, national security and fears about peak oil all demand attention, and attention to any one of them should instruct Congress: It's time to put the nation on an energy diet, to invest in new renewable energy technology and find a path to future prosperity with new, cleaner sources of energy. An energy policy that does anything less should be seen as a sign of poor leadership. Accomplishing that would make history.
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