Friday, December 14, 2007

US Energy Bill passed with the good bits ripped out by Democrats

The US Senate Republicans Thursday passed a new energy bill after the Democrats sadly stripped a vital support package for renewable energy from the bill.

This was a bitter blow yesterday for the renewable energy industries. The Senate was one vote short of passing the tax package, which included a long-term extension of the investment tax credit and a short-term extension of the production tax credit.

"Today's vote is out of step with Americans across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support clean, home-grown renewable energy,” said Gregory Wetstone, Senior Director of Governmental and Public Affairs at the American Wind Energy Association.

It appears that Senators voted along party lines because of pressure from Republican leaders and the White House, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The stripped down bill was passed 86-8. It contains:
  • a 21-billion-dollar tax package, under which some 13.5 billion dollars in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies would be repealed and used for tax incentives to promote renewable fuels and energy efficiency.

  • Meaasures to increase vehicle fuel economy by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 - the first increase in the federal vehicle standard for cars in 32 years - but only bringing it up to what has been the norm in Europe for years.

  • a sevenfold increase in the use of ethanol as a motor fuel to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, with two-thirds to be cellulosic ethanol from such feedstock as prairie grass and wood chips. this could be an ecological disaster and counterproductive in emissions terms if we are not careful

  • an increase energy efficiency requirements for appliances and federal and commercial buildings and require faster approval of federal energy efficiency standards.

The bill now goes to the House, where a vote is expected next week. President Bush will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk, as is expected.

The increased auto efficiency by 2020 will save 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, equal to half the oil now imported from the Persian Gulf, save consumers $22 billion at the pump, and reduce annual greenhouse gases emissions by 200 million tons, said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii., whose committee crafted the measure.

Tax breaks for a wide range of clean energy industries, including wind, solar, biomass and carbon capture from coal plants, were part of the tax package that was dropped.

Senate Democrats earlier also abandoned a House-passed provision that would have required investor-owned utilities nationwide to generate 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources.

"The Senate Democrats should show some backbone," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. "If Republicans want to block progress on clean energy and global warming, they should be forced to mount a real filibuster — for weeks if necessary."

He calculates that the big five oil companies' projected profit loss due to the dropped measures, of $13.5 billion over 10 years, amounted to a mere 1.1 percent of the net profits at today's oil prices.

It's these bastards that are behind the White House's shameful behaviour in Bali today.

However some good news from America: on Wednesday a federal court judge in Fresno, California ruled that the state's landmark law mandating reduced greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from passenger vehicles may stand.

He rejected arguments by car makers that federal law should preempt the state's effort.

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