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 user 2007-06-25 at 10:32:00 am Views: 33
  • #18145

    Senate Passes Energy Bill, Ups Gas Mileage
    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.
    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.

    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:
    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
    -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.