Thursday, May 03, 2007

Senate Committee Approves Energy Bill

May 2: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), approved bipartisan legislation designed to improve efficiency, promote renewable fuels diversity and invest in research on carbon sequestration. On a 20-3 vote, the Committee approved a Bingaman-Domenici joint mark that combines measures introduced over the past month. The legislation is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.

Bingaman said, “This legislation is a big step forward in three key areas to 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. 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 testament to the bipartisan strength that our Committee brings to tough issues.”

Committee Ranking Member Pete Domenici (R-NM) said, “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.”

According to a release, the bipartisan legislation establishes an escalating requirement to reduce America’s gasoline consumption, beginning with a 20 percent savings target in 10 years -- equivalent to more than 32 billion gallons per year -- and enough to reduce world oil prices by more than $2.50/barrel under current Energy Information Administration assumptions. The bill places a particular focus on the development of advanced biofuels by requiring an increasing portion of renewable fuels to be from unconventional biomass feedstocks beginning in 2016.

The joint mark would also promote biofuels infrastructure development in more diverse regions of the country, so producers and consumers alike can benefit from new and better choices at the gas pump. By increasing funding for bioenergy research and development by 50 percent, it invests in the critical science programs that can propel America to the forefront of global research on bioenergy resources.

In addition, new efficiency benchmarks for appliances included in the bill -- which contribute as much as two-thirds of an average American household’s electricity costs -- would bring consumers more than $12 billion in benefits, according to an American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy analysis. These standards would save more than 50 billion kilowatt-hours per year in electricity, or enough to power 4.8 million typical American households. It would also save 17 trillion BTUs of natural gas per year, and more than 560 million gallons of water per day.

Since the Federal government itself spends more than $14 billion a year on energy costs, leading the way toward energy security can also save money for American taxpayers. Under the bill’s strengthened Federal efficiency requirements, the government alone is poised to save another 220 trillion BTUs of energy and 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Among the other efficiency provisions of note are programs that $2.3 billion for research related to automotive batteries; authorize $60 million for DOE to research and develop light-weight materials for vehicle construction; authorize $15 million for advanced lighting technology, and reauthorize the Weatherization Assistance Program at $750 million. Finally, the bill authorizes research and development spending of up to $120 million on carbon sequestration, with the goal of furthering development of this key technology to reduce carbon emissions.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President, John Engler, issued a statement that commended the bipartisan energy package voted out of the Senate Committee, but said the draft legislation did not go far enough to address the nation’s future energy use. Engler said, "Our nation is starving for a solution to our energy crisis. Any movement toward establishing a sound domestic energy policy is welcome news, but without substantial congressional action, the nation’s manufacturers and our economy will suffer. A foundation for future energy use demands comprehensive and aggressive reforms -- both of which we hope the Senate will take up when legislation moves to the floor.”

According to a release from Sierra Club the Committee voted 12-11 to defeat an attempt to attach an amendment supporting liquid coal to the renewable fuels bill. Sierra Club said, "Liquid coal has no place in a bill about renewable fuels, or anywhere else for that matter. This amendment would have started us down the dangerous and expensive road to establishing an entirely new and massively polluting industry in this country. Liquid coal is nothing but a multibillion dollar swindle of taxpayers in order to fund an expensive boondoggle for energy interests--one that will result in massive increases in air pollution, global warming emissions, and all of the other negative environmental consequences associated with irresponsibly mined and burned coal..."

Access a release from Senator Bingaman (
click here). Access a release from NAM (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). [*Energy]