Historic Boost To Auto Mileage Becomes Law
"We have an important victory, but we still need cleaner electricity. Audubon will continue to fight for more renewable electricity, which is sorely needed and the public strongly supports. The historic auto efficiency victory shows us that good policy and strong public support can eventually win the day over narrow special interests."
A broad energy bill providing the most significant increase in vehicle fuel-economy standards in three decades cleared its final hurdle on December 19, 2007, after being signed into law by President Bush. The bill proceeded earlier in the month after a narrow block of Senators prevented inclusion of a renewable electricity boost many conservation groups were seeking. Known as a renewable electricity standard (RES), it would require that utilities generate more electricity from cleaner sources. The RES passed the House earlier in the year and had drawn broad bipartisan and environmental support. Democratic leaders have pledged to bring the RES back for a vote in 2008.
CAFE DETAILS. The increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) is the first in 30 years. Under the plan, the U.S. fleetwide average would rise from an average of 25 mpg today to 35 by 2020. The provision would prevent more than 190 million metric tons of global warming pollution, the equivalent of taking 28 million of today's average cars and trucks off the road.
It will also promote energy independence by saving roughly 1.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2020, about half of what the United States currently imports from the Persian Gulf.
RES DETAILS. Much of America's current electricity comes from dirtier sources such as coal fired power plants. An RES would have brought much wider uses of clean energy sources like solar and properly sited wind power.
The legislative vehicle during the energy bill debate was the Udall-Platts renewable energy amendment, which was passed by the House last summer. Twenty four states and the District of Columbia have already passed an RES which would require utilities to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy they use to generate electricity each year. A federal RES would create a market-based mechanism of tradable renewable energy credits – similar to the Clean Air Act trading system – allowing utilities to meet the requirements at the lowest cost.
The key provision would have required a total of 15 percent of U. S. electricity to come from renewable energy sources and enhanced efficiency by 2020. Leading up to the vote, thousands of Audubon volunteers, chapter leaders and activists had been encouraged to call or write their member of Congress. The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Todd Platts (R-PA). Audubon leaders are pledging to keep working to pass an RES in 2008, potentially as a stand-alone bill.
Under the amendment, utilities would have received a credit for every kilowatt of electricity they produce from wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, ocean, and biomass energy – which includes capturing the gas from landfills and animal waste – as well as for improvements made to existing hydroelectric facilities. These credits could be traded or sold among utilities, or bought from the Department of Energy.
Studies have shown a federal RES would reduce global warming pollution and provide a significant down payment on the global warming pollution reductions scientists say will be necessary in the near term to avoid the effects of global warming down the road.
Recent analyses by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that an RES would generate new high-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction and more. Meanwhile, due to the reduced demand for fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, the policy would save consumers on their electric and natural gas bills.