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Energy Efficiency Hits Brick Wall in Washington

Energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies seem to take center stage quite often in Washington, yet nothing substantial ever seems to happen. Senate Democrats proposed a package of energy bills but were consistently opposed by most Senate Republicans.

The first provision proposed to force electric utilities to generate 15% of their power from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy sources by 2020. A valid problem to this provision was raised by senators from the Southeast who noted that their states do not have renewable resources to meet the standard.

Another interesting provision involves a a $14 billion tax package that will increase subsidies and incentives for renewable energy businesses. The idea is to pay for this package by cutting out the oil industry tax breaks. Naturally the oil industry dislikes this suggestion and has suggested in the past that this would only result in them having to raise gas prices throughout the country to compensate. This scenario would be tough for many people and many businesses that rely on transportation and shipping. Even though the transition might be challenging, there would be a sunny side waiting for the whole country at the end of the tunnel. Ultimately, the high price of using fossil fuels would mean an increased demand for alternative products like the electric, hydrogen and hybrid cars. This would spur businesses, both new and older existing fossil fuel automakers to create and market new lines of vehicles to meet this “renewable demand”. Also, the cats out in Washington need to realize that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, a fact I am sure most people reading this can appreciate.

Another notable provision brought up was fuel economy, which proposed raiding standards for cars and trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This provision is still uncertain in a storm of partisan debate between Democrats and Republicans, so who knows what will happen. In thinking about this issue, at first it seems great to say that fuel economy will be improved by 2020, but a little voice seems to keep whispering, “Isn’t this business as usual and just another way to stall for more time. It seems more helpful to set smaller and more short term goals for the auto industry rather than putting the question off for 13 years. How about increasing the fuel economy by 2 mpg every year?

Another interesting article out there in the net can be found on Grist, where Kerry has been reported to be blogging [gristmill.grist.org] on the energy debate going on in Washington.