Friday, June 22, 2007

US Senate Adopts Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards

The Senate passed the higher fuel efficiency standards, but Republicans in the Senate blocked a change in the law that would have increased taxes on oil companies and diverted the money received to the development of energy alternatives, according to a story in the New York Times.
The Senate passed a broad energy bill late Thursday that would, among other things, require the first big increase in fuel mileage requirements for passenger cars in more than two decades.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, sponsor of an amendment to help automakers, arriving for a meeting in Senator Harry Reid’s office.

The vote, 65 to 27, was a major defeat for car manufacturers, which had fought for a much smaller increase in fuel economy standards and is expected to keep fighting as the House takes up the issue.
But Senate Democrats also fell short of their own goals. In a victory for the oil industry, Republican lawmakers successfully blocked a crucial component of the Democratic plan that would have raised taxes on oil companies by about $32 billion and used the money on tax breaks for wind power, solar power, ethanol and other renewable fuels.
Republicans also blocked a provision of the legislation that would have required electric utilities to greatly increase the share of power they get from renewable sources of energy.
As a result, Senate Democrats had to settle for a bill that calls for a vast expansion of renewable fuels over the next decade — to 36 billion gallons a year of alternatives to gasoline — but does little to actually promote those fuels through tax breaks or other subsidies.
The combination of breakthroughs and setbacks highlighted the blocking power of the entrenched industry groups, from oil companies and electric utilities to car manufacturers, that had blanketed Congress in recent days to defend their interests.
The clashes and impasses also provided a harbinger of potentially bigger obstacles when Democrats try to pass legislation this fall to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases tied to
global warming.
Democrats conceded that they had had won only a partial victory, but said they would have additional opportunities to push their agenda when the House takes up similar legislation, with the goal of passing it before the Fourth of July recess.
“This bill starts America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil by increasing the nation’s use of renewable fuels,” said Senator
Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader.
Environmental groups, though disappointed by the setbacks on renewable fuels, nevertheless hailed the vote on higher mileage requirements as a long-sought victory that could eventually reduce American gasoline consumption by more than 1 million gallons of gasoline a day.
If the Senate bill becomes law, car manufacturers would have to increase the average mileage of new cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, compared with roughly 25 miles per gallon today.
Car companies had lobbied ferociously for a much weaker requirement of 30 miles per gallon for light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. To muster enough votes to prevent a filibuster, about a dozen lawmakers from both parties hammered out a deal that included the higher standard but omitted explicit requirements for further increases in efficiency after 2020.

IREJN is Connecticut's Interfaith Power and Light. Visit us at

No comments: