Senate Democrats Introduce Broad Energy Package

While immigration and border security is the big issue this week in Congress, Senate Democrats haven’t forgotten about the high energy prices being felt by industry and gas stations all across the country. On Wednesday, they unveiled a broad package of energy legislation that includes a number of provisions aimed at increasing renewable energy use and reducing America’s use of petroleum consumption in the transportation sector.

Curiously, it doesn’t include an overt push for a tightening of the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards that many experts say could have the greatest immediate impact on coercing automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars. But it does include a call to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels a day in 2020 — or 40 percent of America’s projected imports. Specifically for vehicles, it would require that 25 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2010 be flex-fuel capable, rising to 50 percent by 2020. The Bill’s greatest impact in promoting renewable energy use is the establishment of a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring that 10 percent of all electricity produced in the country come from renewable sources by 2020. In the past several years, such a measure has been soundly defeated by the Republican majority. Similarly, politics will have a bearing on the energy package proposed by Senate Democrats this week. As one industry insider put it, “when Democrats introduce a Bill in a Republican- controlled Congress [it has] less than 50% chance of passage. When Democrats introduce a bill in a Republican-controlled Congress six months before a mid-term national election, less than 25% chance of passage. This is just a place-holder that has little chance for passage but may be cherry-picked by the Republicans.” Some polling indicates that Republicans are polling worse than Democrats on the energy issue. The Bill may fare better than simply being cherry-picked by Republicans, and could actually become a bipartisan government effort since clean energy is increasingly supported by both parties. Many energy items have been introduced in Congress in the past few weeks but what ultimately passes is far from certain and likely to look nothing like what was originally proposed. The full, unedited press release on the package follows: Democrats want to give America the edge by moving in a new direction. Senate Democrats’ Clean Energy Development for a Growing Economy (Clean EDGE) initiative will help transform America’s energy policy, to meet one of the most pressing national security, economic, and environmental challenges of our generation. Democrats understand-and our nation’s history demonstrates — that America can rise to the occasion. Making energy independence a truly national effort takes a bold plan, leaders with resolve and a shared sense of commitment among individual citizens. Like the Manhattan and the Apollo projects that have come before, the Clean EDGE initiative begins with an aggressive goal: to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels a day in 2020 — or 40 percent of America’s projected imports. By clearing the pathways to innovation, investing in our workers and infrastructure, and providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices, the Clean EDGE initiative will provide the tools to help move America forward, toward real energy security for the 21st Century. Transforming American’s Vehicles & Infrastructure Flex-Fuel Vehicles: The Clean EDGE Act accelerates the conversion of American vehicles to flexible fuel technology. The legislation mandates that 25 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2010 be flex-fuel capable, rising to 50 percent by 2020. Flexible fuel vehicles can run on higher blends of biofuels, which helps displace petroleum and provide competition at the gas pump. Accelerating Infrastructure Conversion: A major barrier to using flex fuel vehicles to reduce petroleum consumption is the lack of refueling stations that provide biofuels. The Clean EDGE Act sets a national goal of installing alternative fuels at 10 percent of American gas stations by 2015. To help achieve it, the legislation will provide additional tools to individual retailers, along with support to local governments that partner with private industry to establish alternative refueling corridors in different parts of the country. In order to break the oil industry’s lock on the gas pump, it also requires major integrated oil companies that own refueling stations to install alternative fuel pumps. Hybrids and Advanced Vehicle Technology: The Clean EDGE Act will accelerate and extend incentives to purchase and manufacture vehicles that rely on advanced fuel efficiency technologies. Protecting American Consumers & Businesses Preventing Gas Price Gouging and Increasing Transparency in the Oil and Gas Industry: The Clean EDGE Act makes gas price-gouging a Federal crime, enhances Federal authority to prevent and prosecute manipulation of fuel supplies and anti-competitive behavior, and increases the transparency of petroleum markets. Energy Price Relief for Low-Income Americans: The Clean EDGE Act will provide additional assistance to Americans struggling under the weight of rising energy costs, by providing flexibility in Food Stamp and Section 8 Public Housing requirements, and a refundable tax credit to LIHEAP-eligible households to help cover residential energy costs. Energy Emergency Loans for Farmers and Small Businesses: Volatile prices place an extra burden on businesses that operate close to the margin. The Clean EDGE Act creates disaster loan assistance through the Small Business Administration and USDA, for small businesses and farmers trying to cope with rising energy costs. Leveling the Playing Field for Clean Energy Technologies Ending Giveaways to Big Oil: The Clean EDGE Act will revoke subsidies for profit-rich, major oil companies, and make sure they pay their fair share in royalties owed to American taxpayers for drilling on public lands and in federal waters. Providing Certainty to Emerging Technologies: Rather than subsidizing the mature petroleum industry, the Clean EDGE Act will use these savings to provide greater certainty for clean energy development, by extending incentives for renewable energy and efficiency technologies. Real Government Leadership for Clean and Secure Energy A Serious Federal Commitment: The federal government is the single largest energy consumer in America. The Clean EDGE Act requires the Federal government reduce its petroleum consumption by 20 percent in five years and 40 percent by 2020, increase its renewable electricity use to 10 percent of total consumption by 2013, and employ advanced, efficient, and renewable technology to help drive innovation and jumpstart markets. Innovative New Tools for States: The Clean EDGE Act provides enhanced bond issuing authority to states and local governments, for projects to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, to develop non-petroleum fuels, invest in efficient vehicles, alternative infrastructure and transit. Diversifying American Energy Sources, Investing in the Future Renewable Electricity. To help reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean EDGE Act sets a national renewable portfolio standard requiring that 10 percent of all electricity produced in the country come from renewable sources by 2020. ARPA-E. The Clean EDGE Act will create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to develop cutting-edge technologies that will reduce oil consumption, improve electricity efficiency and reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Investing in American Jobs and Industry. The Clean EDGE Act will create a clean energy investment administration to help deploy new, on-the-ground solutions. It will also invest in education programs to develop a skilled domestic workforce in advanced energy technologies.
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