Bipartisan Action on Energy Is Encouraging

By David L. Brown

Here in New Mexico where I make my home, there is particular impetus for action on issues relating to energy and the environment. For one thing, our Governor Bill Richardson is the former Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration. For another, our two Senators, Pete Domenici (D) and Jeff Bingaman (R) are Chairman and Ranking Minority Member respectively of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. That’s a pretty powerful combination, and it promises to pay off with some legislative progress.

According to a news release I received today from Sen. Bingaman, the two Senators from the Land of Enchantment have “won broad bipartisan support for legislation they wrote to expand the use of alternative fuels, capture carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use energy more efficiently.”

The draft bill passed the committee 20-3. The joint news release added this:

“This legislation is a big step forward in three key areas to America’s energy future. It will help dramatically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by requiring the more efficient use of energy and by putting a much greater emphasis on the use of renewable, homegrown fuels,” Bingaman said. “It also increases our investment in research on the capture of carbon, so we can cut back on the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. I appreciate the help and support that Senator Domenici gave in this effort. This bill is a good start and I look forward to a full Senate debate.”

“Today, the Energy Committee came together on a bipartisan basis and passed a bill that makes significant strides in a number of areas important to our long term energy security. In particular, this bill sets the stage for biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol to greatly expand in our fuel supply, and will also save consumers money by improving efficiency standards. I look forward to an open and vigorous debate on the floor of the Senate that will include these and other measures as we tackle our energy challenges,” Domenici said.

This evidence of bipartisan cooperation on issues of such vital importance to our future is quite heartening. The news release contained this synopsis of the items covered in the proposed legislation:

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Sets aggressive national goals for reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent by 2017; 35 percent by 2025 and 45 percent by 2030.

Enacts into law efficiency standards developed for residential boilers, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers, and electric motors.

Authorizes $60 million for the Department of Energy to research and develop light-weight materials such as advanced carbon composites and light-weight steel alloys for the construction of vehicles.

Requires a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption in existing federal buildings by 2015 and requires new federal buildings to meet standards for reducing fossil fuel consumption, with a goal of eliminating fossil fuel consumption in new buildings by 2030.

BIOFUELS

Sets annual requirements for the amount of renewable fuels used in motor vehicles, and for home heating oil and boiler fuels. The expanded RFS requires 8.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2008 and progressively increases to 36 billion gallons requirement by 2022.

Beginning in 2016, an increasing portion of renewable fuels must be advanced biofuels. Advanced biofuels include cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol and other fuels derived from unconventional biomass feedstocks. The required amount of advanced biofuels begins at 3 billion gallons in 2016 and increases to 21 billion in 2022.

Fosters the development of a national renewable fuels infrastructure and vehicle fleet by offering: • Federal loan guarantees of up to $250 million per renewable fuel facilities; • State grants to establish renewable fuels corridors; • Grants for infrastructure to transport biomass to local biorefineries; and • And by establishing a Biorefinery Information Center and alternative fuels database to provide information on renewable fuels resources, producers and users.

CARBON SEQUESTRATION

Authorizes research & development spending at $90 million for FY 2007, $105 million for FY 2008, and $120 million for FY 2009.

Provides for cooperation between the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, State governments, and State surveyors.

It is particularly encouraging to see the support this bill would give to development of biofuels that are not based on food grains such as corn ethanol or soybean biodiesel. There is only a grim future ahead for a process that takes away foodstuffs just as the world nears possible famine. Let us hope that the Legislature takes similar steps and that the Administration falls into line to take this positive step forward.

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