U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici introduced legislation last week to reduce our nation's use of fossil fuels by improving efficiency in vehicles, buildings, home appliances and industrial equipment - saving consumers more than $12 billion annually. Bingaman and Domenici are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
According to a press release, Senate Bill 1115 (S.1115), called the Energy Efficiency Promotion Act, would save at least 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or enough energy to power 4.8 million U.S. households. It also would save 170 million therms of natural gas per year, or enough to heat about 750,000 U.S. homes and targets a 45% reduction in gasoline consumption.
"The Energy Efficiency Promotion Act will reduce consumers' future energy bills by getting more from the energy we produce," Bingaman said. "High energy prices and the threat of global warming are very much on Congress's agenda this year. This bill is an effective step toward addressing both problems."
"This bill is part of a broader attempt by our committee to provide incentives that will encourage Americans to embrace more energy efficient homes and businesses," Domenici said. "Our bill will allow consumers to save money by reducing energy usage. We think the federal government can set an example by improving the energy efficiency of its own facilities."
The bill sets the goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20% by 2017; by 35% by 2025; and by 45% by 2030.
The bill also includes a number of specific provisions designed to accelerate the development and deployment of efficient vehicle technologies, including advanced battery development for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The other transportation measures of the bill include:
Appliance Efficiency Standards
The bill also expedites new energy efficiency standards for appliances by enacting into law efficiency standards developed by the Department of Energy for residential boilers, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers, and electric motors. It also provides the Department of Energy with expedited rulemaking authority and increased flexibility to issue new energy efficiency standards in the future.
Federal Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The Energy Efficiency Promotion Act is also designed to make the federal government a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy use, using the purchasing power of the federal government to drive markets forward.
The legislation sets the following goals, targets and programs for federal government energy use in fleets and buildings:
The bill includes the following other provisions:
The bill was the subject of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday.
This sounds like a good bill. Targeting a broad range of energy efficiency improvements, this bill is a great step forward in reducing Americans' energy consumption, bringing the corresponding reductions in energy bills, environmental impacts (including global warming pollution) and dependence on imported fuels.
While the goals for vehicle energy efficiency improvements are simply goals and lack the increased CAFE standards or new 'fee-bate' system that might ensure those goals are realized, it's at least a good first step. More importantly, the appliance efficiency improvements will accrue real savings and the increased focus on energy efficient vehicle technology development is long overdue. It's time to stop throwing money down the bottomless 'hydrogen economy' pit and start focusing on near-term technologies that can greatly improve the efficiency of our vehicle fleet, including advanced battery research to support the deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Additionally, the provisions requiring the government to lead the way will have major market transformation effects. The fleet fuel consumption reduction targets alone will help drive the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and other efficient vehicle technologies, perhaps as effectively as the increased research and development funding. These reduction targets could drive hundreds of thousands of fleet vehicle purchases of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and other efficient vehicles. The US Postal service alone has over 280,000 vehicles, for example. If that kind of purchasing power committed to efficient vehicles isn't enough to get Detroit off their butt, I don't know what is ...
... ok, that's a lie, I do know what would be enough to get them off their butts: implementation of a reformed and increased CAFE standard requiring average fuel economy to hit 40 mpg by 2030. That's the one component that this bill really is missing. A 'fee-bate' system/gas guzzler tax would also help drive consumer demand for efficient vehicles and support the CAFE requirement. However, there are several other bills that have been introduced proposing increased fuel economy standards, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them passes this year or the next, perhaps eventually rolled into a bill similar to this one.
There's a lot of good bills floating around Congress right now that would help get America on a path to a sustainable energy future. It's refreshing to at least see Congress talking about real solutions. Now it's getting time for them to pass something (this fall should be really interesting!)...
[A hat tip to Green Car Congress]