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House Energy Bill Takes a Step Forward on Global Warming, Energy Security

August 7, 2007

On August 4, the House of Representatives passed a wide-ranging energy bill that marks a significant step forward toward reducing global warming and improving U.S. energy security. Passed by a vote of 241 to 172, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act sets new efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and buildings and offers incentives for the production of cellulosic ethanol and for the installation of E-85 ethanol gas pumps. The bill also provides tax breaks for the production and purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Most significantly, the House approved an amendment establishing a renewable electricity standard (RES) that requires electric utilities nationwide to obtain at least 15 percent of their power from a combination of energy efficiency and renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal energy by 2020. While the original RES amendment set a target of 20 percent by 2020, the 15 percent RES included in the House energy bill will significantly curb global warming pollution while sending a clear message to electricity providers that renewable energy is vital to building a clean, sustainable and secure energy future.

In addition to the energy bill, the House also passed a companion tax package that repeals $16 billion in tax breaks given to oil and gas companies. Much of the money will be used to fund programs aimed at expanding renewable energy, improving energy efficiency and boosting biofuels production.

Disappointingly, the energy bill approved by House lawmakers did not include a provision to raise the fuel economy of America’s automobiles. In June, the Senate-passed energy bill included a measure that would increase the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2020. According to a UCS analysis, a 35 mpg standard would reduce global warming pollution by more than 200 million metric tons per year in 2020, while creating nearly 200,000 new jobs. 

While the House-passed energy legislation lacks a provision on fuel economy, the energy package passed by the Senate last June is without an RES requirement. The two bills will be reconciled in a conference committee this fall. To achieve truly meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and move the U.S. toward a clean energy future, both of these critical provisions must be included in the final bill to be agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators.

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