The bad news is that large chunks of icebergs in the Antarctic are breaking off and starting to float away. The good news is the US government is finally paying attention to global warming, at least in some limited, lukewarm way. But it’s a start. From the Environmental News Service:
WASHINGTON, DC, June 22, 2007 (ENS) – The U.S. Senate passed energy legislation late Thursday night that mandates a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards by 2020 and calls for a massive expansion of renewable fuels production. But the final bill is far less ambitious than Democrats had originally hoped for, as Republicans successfully derailed a plan that would have funded $32 billion in renewable energy tax breaks by increasing taxes on oil companies and blocked a measure requiring utilities generate more electricity from renewable sources.
The vote, 65-27, came after more than a week of intense debate that demonstrated deep partisan and regional divides over the nation’s energy future, as well as the pervasive lobbying power of electric utilities, auto manufacturers and the oil industry.
The White House has voiced concern over the mandated increase in fuel economy and threatened a veto because of language in the bill imposing stricter penalties on oil companies for price gouging.
The House is also working on energy legislation, with the goal of considering a bill after the July 4th recess, but has thus far avoided tackling the fuel economy question.
Fuel economy is a tricky political issue for U.S. lawmakers, and the Senate bill only passed after a compromise was reached over the fuel efficiency provision. The original language called for raising standards to 35 miles per gallon, mpg, by 2020, with four percent annual increases from 2021 to 2030.
Current standards require automakers to meet an average of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 for sport utility vehicles and small trucks. Other than a very small increase in requirements for SUVs and trucks, the standards have not changed in two decades.
The compromise eliminated the mandated annual increases, instead calling on federal regulators to increase the standards “at a maximum feasible rate.”
“Our message to the domestic auto industry is, ‘You can do this,’” said Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. [full text]
They can, but they won’t. The auto industry continues to effectively avoid the full-scale shift to alternative energy fuels for cars. It’s a sad case of how corporate influence limits the ability for innovation and expansion into alternative resources. For more on this, I refer you to a movie that David posted a while ago called, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
Regarding the passage of the Clean Energy Act, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse provided the following statement:
â€œLast night, the Senate took a dramatic step toward reducing our reliance on foreign oil, conserving more of the energy we use in our homes, cars, and businesses, and investing in new technologies that will help in the fight against global warming.
â€œOur energy bill will require more of our energy to come from sustainably-produced biofuels; raise fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time since 1975; incentivize the production of fuel-efficient vehicles; create new standards for appliances and lighting to help conserve electricity; and take a closer look at ways to trap carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere. It will save tens of billions of dollars for American families.
â€œI was especially proud to support legislation, which passed as part of the energy bill last night, that will make the federal government a leader in energy-efficient, environmentally-sound building standards. Buildings that use less energy, and keep our air and water cleaner, will help preserve our environment, save taxpayersâ€™ money â€“ and take us one step closer to curbing the threat of global warming.
â€œTo keep our economy strong and our people and environment healthy, we must lead the world in finding innovative ways to produce and use energy. This bill moves us closer to that goal.â€?