On May 16, 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking comments regarding a recent petition to reduce the volume of renewable fuels required under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In a letter sent to EPA on April 25, 2008, Governor Rick Perry of Texas requested that the EPA cut the RFS mandate for ethanol production in half (RFS mandate for 2008 is 9 billion gallons), citing recent economic impacts in Texas. In response, EPA will soon publish a Federal Register Notice opening a 30-day comment period on the request.
In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the RFS program, provisions were included enabling the EPA Administrator to suspend part of the RFS if its implementation would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region, or the entire country. EPA must make a decision on a waiver request within 90 days of receiving it.
The Effects of Ethanol on Texas Food and Feed (PDF) — Study from Texas A&M University (April 2008)
If you have questions, please email or call Jetta Wong at jwong [at] eesi.org or (202) 662-1885.
The Energy Bill: A Hero and a Villain
President Bush has just signed into law an energy bill that could have been even better but still remains an impressive achievement. The long struggle to produce that bill yielded the usual quotient of heroes and villains, but two deserve special mention:
John Dingell, who could have been a villain but chose to be a hero; and Mary Landrieu, who could have been a hero but chose to be a villain.
Mr. Dingell was a most unlikely hero. A Michigan Democrat and a reliable defender of the automobile industry, he had long resisted efforts to mandate new fuel efficiency standards, which had not been updated for more than 30 years.
But there has always been a softer, “greener” side to this crusty octogenarian that people often overlook. An architect of the original Clean Water Act of 1972, he cares a lot about wetlands preservation, endangered species and other environmental causes. He is also a fairly recent convert to the climate change issue, describing the global warming threat with phrases like “Hannibal is at the gates.”
So when Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, made a personal pledge to upgrade fuel efficiency standards, Mr. Dingell agreed, in exchange for one or two modest concessions, to get out of the way. He did more than that. When environmentalists complained that the Senate’s mandate for a huge increase in ethanol could threaten forests, wetlands and conservation areas, Mr. Dingell made sure the final bill contained the necessary safeguards. He also insisted on a provision requiring that ethanol from corn or any other source produce a net benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms. Landrieu was an altogether different story. The Louisiana Democrat broke ranks with her Democratic colleagues and gave President Bush and the Republican leadership the one-vote margin they needed to strike a key provision that would have rescinded about $12 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry and shifted the money to research and development of cleaner sources of energy.
The White House argued that these tax breaks were necessary to insure the oil industry’s economic health and to protect consumers at the pump. Given industry’s $100 billion-per-year profits, these arguments were absurd on their face, but Ms. Landrieu promoted both of them and added one of her own: The energy bill was “one-sided policymaking” that left “Louisiana footing the bill.”
Never mind that the rest of the country is footing the bill for the repair and restoration of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That is a just and worthy cause and one that the nation is willing to help pay for. But isn’t reducing oil dependency and global warming emissions by rewarding traditional fossil fuels a bit less, and rewarding newer, cleaner fuels a bit more, also a just and worthy cause? One that Louisiana could help pay for? That is something Ms. Landrieu might ask herself the next time she puts her state’s interest ahead of the nation’s.
The bill, which contains a major biofuels mandate (also known as the renewable fuels standard) and increased fuel economy, building, and appliance standards, has been given the okay by the president.
The New York Times today looks into the possible implications of the ethanol mandate.
After Sen. Reid dropped the oil-for-renewable tax package following a failed cloture vote on the energy bill this morning, Republicans removed the filibuster threat and President Bush dropped his veto threat, having achieved a bill that met essentially all of the White House conditions.
This evening, the senatorial candidates having left the city, the Senate moved directly to a vote (ending debate by unanimous consent) on the final revision of the energy bill, which retains strengthened CAFE, appliance, and building standards, and a strong biofuels mandate with White House-approved tax adjustments for revenue.
The bill passed 86-8, Sen. Stabenow (D-Mich.) joining seven Republicans (Wyoming, Oklahoma, Hatch, DeMint, and Kyl) in opposition.
By a roll call vote of 59-40, Senate Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster threatened by Republicans of the compromise energy legislation which retained the tax package under veto threat but not the House-approved renewable energy standard. Sen. Reid plans to reintroduce a version of the energy bill which contains the CAFE and biofuels provisions later today.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was the only Democrat to vote with the Republicans. Coleman, Collins, Grassley, Hatch, Lugar, Murkowski, Smith, Snowe, and Thune voted with the Democrats. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), on the campaign trail, was the one senator not voting.
By a vote of of 53-42 the cloture motion failed.The following Democrats voted against cloture:
- Bayh (D-IN)
- Byrd (D-WV)
- Landrieu (D-LA)
- Coleman (R-MN)
- Collins (R-ME)
- Smith (R-OR)
- Snowe (R-ME)
- Thune (R-SD)
- Corker (R-TN)
- Craig (R-ID)
- Crapo (R-ID)
- Domenici (R-NM)
- Ensign (R-NV)
- Lugar (R-IN)
- Sessions (R-AL)
- Specter (R-PA)
- Stevens (R-AK)
- Sununu (R-NH)
- Crapo (R-ID)
- Lugar (R-IN)
- Grassley (R-IA)
- Roberts (R-KS)
Following the vote, the chamber resumed consideration of the farm bill (HR 2419).
- Boyd (FL)
- Gene Green
- Johnson (IL)
- Smith (NJ)
- Walden (OR)
Videos from the Speaker’s blog:
|Speaker Pelosi: “Earlier today, some of you saw me reference this baseball, signed by Bobby Thompson, the ‘shot heard around the world,’ October 3, 1951. An historic day in baseball. When he signed this baseball, he referenced a phrase used by Ralph Waldo Emerson referencing the shot fired at Concord which began the Revolutionary War, the fight for American independence. If Bobby Thompson could reference a shot heard round the world, we should indeed be able to do it today. This vote on this legislation will be a shot heard ‘round the world for energy independence for America.’”|
|Rep. Welch: “Perhaps the best way to characterize what has been the US policy on energy is captured by looking at a photograph that serves as a metaphor. What it shows is the United States hand in hand with OPEC producers on whom we’ve become increasingly reliant and dependent, pursuing an energy policy of drill and drill, consume and consume, spend and spend, all with ever-escalating and budget-busting expense inflicted on our families and businesses, all with reckless denial – reckless denial – to the environmental damage that we are doing by this policy to the earth we all share, all with cavalier disregard to our national security by depending on regimes that are not our friends. Mr. Speaker, this bill brought before you does two fundamental things in changing the direction of energy policy…”
|Rep. Markey: “This is an historic debate. This is an historic day in the history of the United States. Today we debate energy independence and global warming for the first time in a serious way in our history. This legislation will accomplish things that will send a signal to the world. In this bill we will increase the fuel economy standards of the vehicles Americans drive from 25 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon. We will produce enough ethanol and cellulosic fuel that we can substitute for oil that by the year 2030 when both provisions are completely implemented we will be backing out twice the oil that we import on a daily basis from OPEC, from the Persian Gulf. What a signal to OPEC. Twice the oil from the Persian Gulf eliminated in one vote.”
|Rep. Miller: “This bill also creates over three million jobs in the green industry that are supported by this legislation, that encourages that investment in wind and biofuels, in solar energy. Those three million jobs, we’re eight years late coming to those jobs, but they’re in this legislation, and those jobs will be created in almost every sector of the economy, no matter what geographical area people live in, but we need to develop those skills. And I want to thank John Tierney and Hilda Solis for their efforts on that. This is what… where they told us to go to generate the next generation of innovation, of technology, was in energy and that’s where we’re going to go and America’s going to have a much better energy future as a result of this legislation.”
|Rep. Waxman: “And there are some things this legislation will not do. It won’t diminish the EPA’s authority to address global warming, which the Supreme Court has recognized. It won’t seize authority from the states to act on global warming. President Bush has threatened to veto this bill because it takes away taxpayers subsidies to oil companies, and supports new renewable energy technologies. It’s time for the President to do what the American people want, not what the oil companies want.”
|Rep. Dingell: “I will be voting for this legislation because it contains a number of significant landmark achievements. It will raise fuel economy standards by 40%, to 35 miles per gallon. And it will do it in a way which achieves and protects American jobs, and it gives manufacturers proper flexibility in achieving our goals.”
|Rep. Velázquez: “Small businesses are not just the most impacted by high energy costs, but small businesses are also leaders in domestic production of energy. They make up 80% of all renewable fuel producers in this country. This legislation makes them part of the solution. It does this by developing innovative new technologies, reduces carbon emission, increases clean renewable energy production, and modernizes our energy infrastructure.”
By a vote of 235-181, the House of Representatives passed the version of H.R. 6 which contains both House and Senate provisions (CAFE of 35 MPG by 2020, RES of 15% by 2020, oil/gas rollback with PTC, green jobs, and other provisions, RFS).
Today marks the dawn of a future with less dependence on foreign oil, more renewable energy, and a safer climate. This bill marks a turning point away from America’s untenable path of reliance on dirty fossil fuels that pollute our planet and link us to dangerous foreign regimes and towards a new energy independence future.
This historic piece of legislation represents a paradigm shift in our nation’s approach to energy. The House of Representatives has voted to begin curbing our dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our global warming pollution. We applaud the bill’s passage in the House and commend Speaker Nancy Pelosi for standing up to special interests and ensuring that key provisions remained. This energy bill is not perfect – its fuel economy standards are too weak and its biofuels mandate too large – but, on balance, it represents a strong step forward. Especially important are a provision that will require all utilities to produce some of their energy from clean sources, such as wind and solar, and provisions that will end billions of dollars of subsidies for big oil and instead use these funds to hasten America’s transition to a clean energy future.
In January, Speaker Pelosi promised to deliver energy legislation that would put us on the road toward a new, clean energy future. The energy bill that the House passed today not only puts us on that road, but pushes the accelerator to the floor. It is a dramatic pivot away from the failed energy policies of the past and sets the stage for the Senate to flip the switch on America’s new energy future.
It is a bill of firsts: the first increase in fuel economy standards in more than three decades, the first national requirement for renewable energy, the first environmentally sensitive mandate for homegrown biofuels, and the first energy bill to provide billions for clean energy instead of shoveling subsidies to Big Oil and other polluters. Instead of a pork-laden monstrosity tailored to the needs of the dirty energy industry, this bill will give us clean electricity, greener cars, provide billions for clean energy instead of Big Oil’s bottom line, strengthen our economy, make us more secure, and begin to address the challenge of global warming. It is a tremendous achievement for the Congress, but more importantly, it is a victory for the hardworking American families who are now suffering as a result of decades of failed energy policies.
- CAFE Standard: Increase fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for new cars and trucks
- Renewable Fuels Standard: Multiple-source domestic biofuels mandate with environmental safeguards
- Plug-in hybrid/electric vehicle tax credit and advanced vehicle incentives
- Repeal of $21 billion in tax subsidies for gas and oil companies (H.R. 6), international tax loophole closed, rollback of 2005 Energy Act tax breaks
- Renewable Electricity Standard: 15% by 2020 (4% may be efficiency)
- Efficiency Standards: new appliance and building standards
- Renewable Production Tax Credit and other incentives: extends existing PTC, funds renewable research, provides renewable energy bonds for power providers
- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program
- Incentives for small business development of renewable energy technology
- Carbon Capture and Sequestration: R&D and clean coal incentives
Full details of the legislation are below the fold.
Energy Independence and Security Act
The New Direction Congress is poised to pass an ambitious legislative agenda to put us on a path toward energy independence—to strengthen national security, lower energy costs, grow our economy and create new jobs, and begin to reduce global warming. We are doing so by investing in the future of America with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act.
Specifically, we are taking groundbreaking steps to increase the efficiency of our vehicles, making an historic commitment to American grown biofuels, requiring that 15 percent of our electricity come from renewable sources, and strengthening energy efficiency for a wide range of products, appliances, lighting and buildings to reduce energy costs to consumers. We are repealing tax breaks for profit-rich oil companies, so that we can invest in clean renewable energy and new American technologies. Not only would this reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the measure would also save consumers billions of dollars.
This agreement with the Senate builds on the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221, and H.R. 2776) passed this summer, which includes wide-ranging solutions from 10 House committees. With passage of this measure, we are reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change and increasing our energy independence. The House will move forward next year with the next major effort to reduce global warming.
Strengthen our National Security by Reducing our Dependence on Foreign Oil
Historic Fuel Economy Standards for Cars and Trucks, Endorsed by Environmentalists and the Automobile Industry. The price at the pump demands groundbreaking and historic provisions to increase fuel economy standard to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for new cars and trucks. These provisions will save American families $700 – $1000 per year at the pump, with $22 billion in net consumer savings in 2020 alone. This is the first increase by Congress since 1975 – marking a significant advancement in our efforts to address our energy security and laying the groundwork for climate legislation next year. The bill ensures that fuel economy standard will be reached, while offering flexibility to automakers and ensuring that we keep American manufacturing jobs and continue domestic production of smaller vehicles. It will reduce oil consumption by 1.1 million gallons per day in 2020 (one-half of what we currently import from the Persian Gulf), and reduce greenhouse gases equal to taking 28 million of today’s average cars and trucks off the road.
Renewable Fuels Standard/Historic Commitment to Homegrown Biofuels. The initiative includes a historic commitment to American biofuels that will fuel our cars and trucks – with a robust increase in the Renewable Fuels Standard. This isn’t just about the Midwest – this is about diversifying our energy crops from coast to coast. Whether it is sweet sorghum in Texas, rice straw in California, or corn stover in Minnesota, we will create American jobs and protect the environment. The measure ensures that biodiesel and cellulosic sources, such as switchgrass, are a key part of the increase. It includes critical environmental safeguards to ensure that the growth of homegrown fuels helps to reduce carbon emissions and does not degrade water or air quality or harm our lands and public health. The plan includes incentives to boost the production of biofuels and the number of Flex Fuel and other alternative fuel vehicles.
Incentives for Hybrids. It establishes a plug-in hybrid/electric vehicle tax credit for individuals and encourages the domestic development and production of advanced technology vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Repealing Big Oil Giveaways to Invest in Renewable Energy. The measure repeals about $21 billion in tax subsidies for Big Oil, mainly including provisions from H.R. 6, which passed the House in January, and the President’s budget. It closes a loophole written into the international tax bill (H.R. 4520) and rolls back the 2005 Energy Bill tax break for geological and geophysical expenditures.
Lower Energy Costs with Cleaner Energy, Greater Efficiency, and Smarter Technology
Historic Step – Electricity from Clean Renewable Sources. This provision, which was contained in the House-passed bill, requires utilities to generate 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources – such as wind power, biomass, wave, tidal, geothermal and solar – by 2020. It permits utilities to meet up to 4 percent of their target through energy efficiency. A 15 percent Renewable Electricity Standard will reduce global warming emissions and lower energy prices and fossil fuel and natural gas consumption and is endorsed by a broad range of businesses, manufacturers, electric utilities, environmental, labor, farm, and faith-based organizations.
Landmark Energy Efficiency to Bring Down Costs. It includes landmark energy efficiency provisions that would save consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars through 2030. It would require more energy efficient appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and freezers, and would speed up Energy Department action on new efficiency standards after six years of delay. It would require improved commercial and federal building energy efficiency and assist consumers in improving the efficiency of their homes.
Incentives for the Renewable Energy Economy. It strengthens and extends existing renewable energy tax credits, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro, landfill gas and trash combustion, while creating new incentives for the use and production of renewable energy. It bolsters research on solar, geothermal, and marine renewable energy. The bill provides new clean renewable energy bonds for electric cooperatives and public power providers to install facilities that generate electricity from renewable resources.
Create New Jobs and Reduce Global Warming
A Skilled Green Workforce. This package creates an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to train a quality workforce for “green” collar jobs – such as solar panel manufacturer and green building construction worker – created by federal renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. Major investments in renewable energy could create 3 million green jobs over 10 years.
Small Businesses Leading in Renewable Energy. The bill increases loan limits to help small businesses develop energy efficient technologies and purchases; provides information to small businesses to reduce energy costs; and increases investment in small firms developing renewable energy solutions, recognizing the leadership of entrepreneurs in the alternative energy sector.
Energy Efficiency Reduces Carbon Dioxide. The landmark fuel efficiency standard, renewable electricity standard and energy efficiency provisions will not only save consumers and businesses money, but will also significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Making Coal Part of the Solution. This initiative takes aggressive steps on carbon capture and sequestration to come up with a cleaner way to use coal – authorizing a nationwide assessment of geological formations capable of sequestering carbon dioxide underground and expansive research and development, including large-volume sequestration tests in a variety of different geological formations. It includes incentives for clean coal, which for the first time ever include a requirement for carbon sequestration.
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