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 user 2007-06-25 at 10:31:00 am Views: 38
  • #18144

    Senate Passes Energy Bill, Ups Gas Mileage
    WASHINGTON June 07 – The Senate passed an energy bill late Thursday that includes an increase in automobile fuel economy , new laws against energy price-gouging and a requirement for huge increases in the production of ethanol.The minimum fuel efficiency would vary for different classes of vehicles based on weight and size, but all vehicles would be expected to increase their fuel economy by 10 mpg over today’s levels by 2020.In an eleventh-hour compromise fashioned after two days of closed-door meetings, an agreement was reached to increase average fuel economy by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks by 2020.But the fuel economy issue threatened to topple the legislation up to the last minute. Majority Leader Harry Reid held off the vote until late into the evening so several senators could be called back to Capitol Hill to provide the 60-vote margin needed to overcome a threatened filibuster from pro-auto industry senators.Shortly before midnight, senators voted 62-32 to cut off debate, and followed by passing the bill 65-27. The measure now awaits action by the House, which is expected to take it up next week. But attempts to combine the two bills and send legislation to President Bush probably won’t be possible until later this year.Bush, who was in Alabama visiting a nuclear power plant, said Congress must “be realistic” about the energy legislation and acknowledged that while he supports the increase in ethanol use, he also opposes much of the legislation.The White House said the president would be urged to veto an energy bill that includes the price-gouging measure, arguing it amounts of price controls. The president also repeatedly has said he opposes Congress mandating a specific mileage number for auto fuel economy . Bush believes the Transportation Department should be given increased flexibility to set a standard.

    While Democrats proclaimed a victory, they failed to achieve several of their top energy priorities.
    Republicans blocked a $32 billion tax package to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, refusing to go along with $29 billion in taxes on the oil industry to pay for it. Republicans also refused to allow a vote on a measure that would have required electric utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their power from wind, biomass or other renewable energy sources.Reid called the setbacks unfortunate but said in a statement that the bill “starts America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil by increasing our use of renewables and for the first time in decades significantly improving the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.”It would be the first increase in vehicle fuel efficiency since the current 22.7 mpg for cars was put in place in 1989 and the first time Congress has imposed a new auto efficiency mandate in 32 years.Supporters said the new requirement would save 2.5 million barrels of oil a day by 2025, when large numbers of the more fuel -stingy cars will be on the road.

    Republicans complained that the energy bill is tilted too much toward renewables and fuel efficiency and does nothing to boost domestic oil or natural gas production.But its supporters said it reflects a shift to a new energy priorities, away from promoting fossil fuels to supporting other energy sources such wind and biomass to make electricity and ethanol to power cars and trucks.The legislation provides a bonanza to farmers and the ethanol industry. It requires ethanol production to grow to at least 36 billion gallon a year by 2022, a sevenfold increase of the amount of ethanol processed last year.

    The legislation also calls for:
    -Price gouging provisions that make it unlawful to charge an “unconscionably excessive” price for oil products including gasoline and give the federal government new authority to investigate oil industry market manipulation.
    -New appliance and lighting efficiency standards and a requirement that the federal government accelerate use of more efficient lighting in public buildings.
    -Grants, loan guarantees and other assistance to promote research into fuel efficient vehicles, including hybrids, advanced diesel and battery technologies. percent ethanol or biodiesel fuels.
    The legislation for the first time would establish a single fuel economy standard applicable not only to cars, but also SUVs and pickups, which currently have to meet less stringent requirement.The minimum fuel efficiency would vary for different classes of vehicles based on weight and size, but all vehicles would be expected to increase their fuel economy by 10 mpg over today’s levels by 2020. Manufacturers would be required to meet an overall fleet-wide average of 35 mpg.”It closes the SUV loophole,” declared Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., referring to current requirements that allow much less stringent fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and pickup trucks than for cars. “This is a victory for the American public.”Automobiles currently must meet a fleet average of 27.5 mpg. But SUVs, vans and pickups – which account more than half of the passenger vehicles on the road, have to meet a lesser 22.2 mpg fleet average.