US: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

President Bush signs the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, at the Energy Department in Washington.

What does this include?;

1. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) – Raises average fleet fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.
2. Renewable fuels – Expands the renewable fuels standard to 9 billion gallons in 2008 and increases it to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
3. Requires the US to produce 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol.
4. Light bulbs – Increases national efficiency standards of light bulbs by 30 percent and phases out most types of incandescent bulbs by 2012-14.
5. Green buildings – Mandates that federal buildings renovated or newly constructed in 2010 reduce their fossil-fuel-generated consumption by 55 percent in 2010 and 100 percent by 2030.

Reactions?;

1. “We’re now in a transitional period in which biofuels and fuel economy is just a first step,” says Reid Detchon, executive director of the Energy Future Coalition, a nonprofit bipartisan public policy initiative. “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.”

2. “There’s a fundamentally different dynamic in Congress now,” says Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy think tank in Washington. “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.

3. Despite all the rhetoric, until this month the US had not made much progress on either oil dependency or climate change – the two major structural challenges to the US energy system and economy, says Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy. But the new energy bill brought energy hawks, environmental advocates, states, and consumers together into “a new political equation,” he says.

What was left out?;

Climate cap-and-trade: Because energy use and emissions go hand in hand, the new energy law accelerates debate over regulating carbon-dioxide emissions across the US economy. Key legislation, such as the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, would require a cap-and-trade system to cut CO2 emissions 15 percent below current levels by 2020. The bill already has significant support and, despite White House opposition, debate over the measure is expected as soon as January.

Climate tailpipe regulation: By year end, Environmental Protection Agency chief Stephen Johnson is expected to respond to an April Supreme Court ruling that the EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases. If the EPA grants California a waiver, the Golden State and 16 others could crack down on carbon-dioxide emissions from passenger vehicles – putting more pressure on automakers.

Renewable electric power: At least 23 states are already demanding greenhouse-gas reductions through renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to get a portion of their energy mix from renewable sources. Although a national renewable standard for utilities was dropped from the energy bill, congressional leaders say it will be raised again next year.

Wind and solar tax credits: Wind and solar industries are fighting to see vital tax credits, which were dropped from the energy bill, get tucked into other legislation. Without them, US production is likely to sag and big Japanese and German companies will grab a huge lead in renewable energy technology. Congressional leaders have promised action early next year.

Critical technology acceleration has been given a boost by the energy bill, research funding for battery technology for plug-in hybrids will accelerate along with research into cellulosic ethanol from noncorn sources.

The Coffee House will be watching the progress of ethanol carefully because of its negative environmental impacts and the areas currently left out of the act. This does however mean that the US has finally woken up to the energy crisis that surrounds us and that debate is now in motion.

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