Congress passed a new energy bill yesterday, and President Bush has said he'll sign it. At the same time, Congress approved an omnibus bill that also includes spending on energy-related projects.
The first fuel economy increase for vehicles in 32 years, from an average of about 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020, which could save the a family up to $1,000 a year and cut oil imports from the Persian Gulf in half by that time, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
A lighting efficiency standard that would triple the efficiency of light bulbs, eliminate traditional incandescent bulbs by 2012, and save the nation more energy and money than all appliance energy standards enacted since 2000, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. Other appliances will get upgraded efficiency standards too, however, and that can't hurt.
Requirements and incentives to boost the efficiency of buildings, both publicly and privately owned.
Congress dropped two important measures that would have helped the nation move away from coal and oil, and toward renewable energy sources. One would have required local utilities to derive a portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources like wind turbines or solar panels, and the other would have removed subsidies for oil companies and applied them instead to alternative energy research and development.
$8 billion in support, in the omnibus spending bill, for the coal industry, which is a leading contributor to the greenhouse gas pollution that fuels global warming.
A huge boost in ethanol, from 6 billion gallons to 36 billion gallons by 2022. While the development of ethanol from new feed stocks, like waste and marginal crops like switchgrass is a goal, corn is the current undisputed king of ethanol. And it comes with a slew of trade-offs that many experts have decided just aren't worth it. For one, it takes almost a gallon of petroleum to make a gallon of ethanol, and excess fertilizer from all the corn being planted is running off of Midwest farms and spawning a "Dead Zone" of near-record proportions in the Gulf of Mexico. The run-up in corn prices, as the ethanol market boomed, has also contributed to a 5% inflation in food prices.
$20.5 billion in loan guarantees, in the omnibus spending bill, to nuclear power, which is a controversial energy source. While some environmentalists are now embracing nuclear power because operating a nuclear power plant produces no appreciable greenhouse gases, nuclear power has long been feared because of perceived safety risks to local communities, and because radioactive waste has a lifespan of thousands of years, and there's no good use for it other than reprocessing for nuclear weaponry.
The bill's best measures, like increased energy efficiency standards for consumer products and new fuel economy standards, require that the executive branch effectively implement the policies outlined by Congress, so the real impact of this bill could still be derailed by politics, the Union of Concerned Scientists has warned.
Who Likes It:
The Alliance to Save Energy called it "the most significant energy-efficiency legislation in three decades."
The Union of Concerned Scientists, whose Brendan Bell told USA Today: "If you drive a car or if you use a toaster or heat your home, this bill is going to save you money."
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which projects that the bill will reduce energy use by 7% and carbon dioxide emissions by 9% by 2030, while saving consumers $400 billion.
Who Hates It:
Friends of Earth, whose president Brent Blackwelder said of the omnibus spending bill, "This isn't a new direction that will help fight global warming-it's a continuation of the failed energy policies of the past."
The Grocery Manufacturers Association's Scott Faber, who told the Los Angeles Times that the boost in ethanol production "won't give us cheaper gas, but it will give us costlier meat, milk and eggs."
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