Energy Bill Grade: B

The Senate Energy Bill passed yesterday 65–27. It doesn’t warrant an “A” grade because proponents failed to pass

  • A requirement for utilities to provide 15 percent of their electric power from renewable sources by 2020, and
  • An energy tax package that would have created $30 billion in incentives for renewable power, biofuels, plug-in hybrids, and other clean technologies.

Still, the bill deserves a solid “B” for what is in it. Here are the major components, from the office of Jeff Bingaman (D-NM):

Increases Auto Mileage for First Time in Decades. It raises auto fuel economy to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40% increase over current requirements for cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks.


Increases Production of Ethanol. It requires ethanol fuel production to grow to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a sevenfold increase over the amount of ethanol processed last year.

Spurs Research on Fuel-Efficient Vehicles. It provides federal grants and loan guarantees to promote research into fuel-efficient vehicles and supports pilot coal-plant projects to capturecarbon dioxide and store it underground.

Saves Taxpayer Dollars By Increasing Energy Efficiency. The bill includes new appliance and lighting efficiency standards plus a requirement that the federal government accelerate use of more efficient lighting in public buildings.

Here are some comments on the Bill, first from Bingaman’s office, then from Richard Lugar’s (R-IN):

Last night, Senate Democrats overcame days of Republican obstructionism and accomplished yet another one of Americans’ priorities. This time it was passing an energy bill that enhances our national security, addresses rising gas prices and further takes us on the road towards energy independence. Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) managed the bill for the Democrats. Most of the content of H.R.6 is from his Energy Committee. Here are Jeff’s notes on the bill:


“I am pleased that the Senate energy bill was passed by my colleagues last night, on a broad bipartisan vote of 65–27, after we turned back two efforts yesterday to filibuster the bill and take it down.

“The Senators who consistently supported the bill through its consideration in the Senate were reflecting where the American people are. The strong consensus of the American public, of business and labor leaders, and of elected officials at almost every level of government, is that our nation must move faster and go farther to secure its energy future.

“The Senate energy bill we have passed is a bill that is all about tapping America’s limitless capacity for innovation — and giving the results of that innovation a strong boost through federal policies — so that America can become more energy self-reliant.

“The bill responds to the deeply held view of most Americans that we can — and should — lead the world when it comes to developing the new technologies that will produce clean, alternative energy and help address the threat of global warming.

“Building a clean energy future is a grand challenge for our country, and not without opposition from various entrenched interests. We certainly saw that reflected in some of the votes on this bill. But all of us here know that tackling that grand challenge will bring us enormous opportunity: lowering our energy costs, building a stronger economy and creating the high-paying energy jobs of the 21st century here in the United States.”

Now here are comments from the office of Richard Lugar:

U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar praised the Senate 65–27 passage of an energy bill that focuses on new sources of energy and conservation to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. The bill includes major provisions initiated by Lugar, including incentives for flexible fuel cars, requirements for greater use of ethanol mixed with petroleum fuels and numerous provisions to promote energy efficiency.


“This bill goes along way toward kicking our addiction to oil,” Lugar said. “Our nation cannot sustain the security threat that comes from a dependence on foreign sources of oil. I encourage House passage and Presidential support for this bill as well as more energy initiatives in the future. We must continue to press for action in the energy area.”

The legislation would increase auto fuel efficiency standards for the first time in more than 20 years. It includes a provision mandating automakers to produce flexible-fuel vehicles, which are able to run on E85 ethanol or regular gasoline. The bill includes a renewable fuel standard (RFS) similar to the Biofuels Security Act, sponsored by Lugar and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). The greatly expanded RFS would guarantee a market for investment in new biofuels production, with special preference to biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol derived from diverse feedstocks like corn stover and switchgrass.

Lugar’s Energy Diplomacy and Security legislation is also included in the bill. It urges the Secretary of State: (1) to establish strategic energy partnerships with the governments of major energy producers and major energy consumers, and with governments of other countries; (2) expand energy emergency preparedness mechanisms; and (3) create a regional-based ministerial Hemisphere Energy Cooperation Forum; and (4) integrate energy security priorities into core State Department activities and create a new coordinator for international energy affairs. The Secretary of State has already been implementing provisions of the legislation.

Most provisions of the Energy Efficiency Promotion section of the bill (Title II) come from legislation that Lugar co-sponsored with Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM). This title would reduce our nation’s use of fossil fuels by improving the efficiency of vehicles, buildings, home appliances, and industrial equipment.

Other Lugar provisions include expanding loan guarantees for renewable fuel facilities, studies to improve flex fuel vehicles and ship biofuels by pipeline, and an assessment of carbon dioxide storage capacity.