Democratic leaders in the Senate plan to bring an energy bill back to the floor on Thursday, after dropping a provision that would have required utilities to generate a portion of their electricity using renewable energy sources.
“We’re not going to be able to keep in the bill the renewable electricity standard,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said today. “That’s too bad.”
Senate leaders were still working on the tax provisions for the bill this afternoon, but Reid said the bill would cost about $21 billion, about the same as the House version.
Last week, the House passed an energy bill that included the renewable electricity language as well as a tax package that would hit the oil and gas companies up for more than $13 billion in higher taxes.
The renewable electricity provision would have required utilities to generate at least 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, although 4 percentage points could be made up through greater energy efficiency.
However, utilities in the South had warned they would not be able to meet that standard and would be forced to pass along higher costs to their consumers. And the White House had threatened to veto the bill over that issue.
The bill’s crown jewel – a requirement the nation’s fleet of cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans achieve an average 35 miles per gallon by 2020 – has broad, bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and particular enthusiasm in the Senate.
Proponents argue that requirement would save the nation 1.1 million barrels of oil a day in 2020, comparable to about half the oil the United States currently imports from the Persian Gulf.
The bill would propel development of technologies to tap sources of “cellulosic” ethanol made from switchgrass, cornstalks and other non-food crops by requiring the nation use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.
The legislation would set new energy efficiency standards for appliances such as dish washers and washing machines and phase out the current generation of energy-inefficient, incandescent light bulb.
By David Ivanovich
11 December 2007
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