ENERGY BILL: SILVER LINING
Yesterday, NewEnergyNews asserted that the ghost of Christmas future would be grumbling this year about the energy bill just signed into law by President Bush. Perhaps those grumbles are only the ghost of Christmas present. Christmas future may have something to be cheerful about.
Reid Detchon, executive director, the Energy Future Coalition: "We're now in a transitional period in which biofuels and fuel economy is just a first step…The stage is set now for plug-in hybrid vehicles with biofuels as a primary fuel. In that scenario, petroleum plays only a very small part."
Throughout the 1950s, the Senate’s filibuster prevented civil rights and voting rights legislation from passing but Congressional leaders kept bringing it up year after year, proposing compromises, finding allies, urging moral commitment. Finally, in the wake of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the heroics of the Freedom Riders in the South, Lyndon Johnson got Congress to act. The nation has never been the same.
Perhaps the national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) mandating New Energy does not have quite the same deep moral resonance as that legislation but it will affect the futures of as many people in as vital a way. It, too, has for years been defeated by the filibuster and recalcitrant, Luddite Senators. Will it take a traumatic environmental disaster on the level of an assassination to move them? Or is its time almost upon us?
Jason Grumet, executive director, the National Commission on Energy Policy: "The US has shifted into a chronic state of action on energy…We've had a breakthrough not just on the substance of the energy issue…Now there appears to be a political pathway forward."
Settling in on the eve of Christmas, let us dream: First, the ghost of Christmas past shows us the sins of 1970s fossil fools unwilling to begin building the infrastructure of the future; next, the ghost of Christmas present wanders through grumbling about coal-burning utilities; finally, the ghost of Christmas future shows us fields of wind turbines, oceans of wave energy converters and deserts blooming with solar energy arrays.
As Bush signs energy bill, new issues come to the fore
Mark Clayton, December 20, 2007 (Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo News)
Congressional leaders, President Bush
Some are pleased with the energy bill signed into law by President Bush. Others (NewEnergyNews among them) find it inadequate to meet the nation’s needs. It raises mileage requirements for US automakers and incentivizes biofuel production. Incentives for New Energy sources of electricity are almost entirely lacking. But what got into the bill may signal changes yet to come.
President Bush signed the bill December 19. It calls for US automakers to bring their fleet average mileage to 35 mpg by 2020 and for the US to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022.
Americans know what is good for the country. (click to enlarge)
That these provisions stayed in the bill may signal that other provisions may follow in 2008 or 2009.
It might require a miracle on K Street, but next year we'll go back to Congress believing... (click to enlarge)
- Cap-and-trade legislation would require emissions be cut (15% below current levels by 2020 in the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act). Such action has significant support in the Senate and the business community, despite White House opposition. Debate is expected in early 2008.
- California will take the EPA to court. Based on a previous ruling by the current Supreme Court, California – representing 17 states – may be able to win the right to impose stricter emissions controls on vehicles than those in this energy bill.
- Nearly half of US states already have Renewable Electricity Standards (RESs) requiring utilities to obtain a per cent of their power from renewable sources by a designated year. The national RES passed the House in 2007 and only lost in the Senate because of the filibuster threat. Those resisting it will be forced to face the future again.
- Congressional leaders are already looking for ways to place production tax credits (PTCs) and investment tax credits (ITCs) for New Energy into 2008 legislation.
- The mileage requirements are likely to impel US automakers to do more development with cellulosic ethanol and plug-in hybrid vehicle technology.
- Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow, Center for American Progress: "There's a fundamentally different dynamic in Congress now…The fact that an increase in fuel economy standards was able to pass by a 3-to-1 margin would have been unimaginable a year ago."