Prior to leaving for August recess, the House of Representatives passed their version of the energy bill, “A New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act” (H.R. 3221). The overarching themes of the legislation include energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy resources, and the ultimate goal of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The House-passed bill would require more energy efficiency in appliances, buildings, and power grids, and addresses energy efficiency in the U.S. Capitol buildings. An amendment offered by Representative Tom Udall (D-NM), which passed on a 220-190 vote, would require private electric suppliers to provide 15 percent of their electricity using renewable energy resources by the year 2020. The measure would allow 4 percent of the requirement to be satisfied through electricity efficiency measures.

A companion tax package, entitled the “Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007” (H.R. 2776) was also passed on a similarly partisan 221-189 vote. The bill calls for $16 billion in taxes from oil companies, at the same time, giving tax incentives to companies for renewable energy efforts. Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming said of the bill, “People will look back at this as the turning point where Congress began to embrace renewable energy.”

In addition to efficiency and renewable measures in the House energy bill, the legislation includes provisions also found in the recently enacted America COMPETES Act. Specifically, the legislation would establish at the Department of Energy an Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) modeled after the Department of Defense’s DARPA.

Included within the Science and Technology section (Title IV) of the House’s energy legislation, are directions for the Secretary of Energy to support research in the following areas: marine renewable energy technologies, geothermal energy, solar energy, biofuels, global change, and climate change. The measure would also amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to establish not less than 5 bioresearch centers for systems biology of biofuels.

The Senate passed their energy bill, “Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 20” (H.R. 6) in late June. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 65-27 and focused on energy security and efficiency. The Senate measure would establish an increase of 40 percent in auto mileage standards, an increase in ethanol production, fuel efficiency research, and would establish new efficiency standards for government buildings. Senator Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, commended “the House for passing legislation that will help our nation better secure its energy future” and stated that he was delighted the House passed the aforementioned Udall amendment to increase renewable electricity.

The House and Senate will likely go to conference sometime in late September or early October to work through differences between the two bills. Congress returns from August recess 4 September to resume work on this bill and others including the remaining appropriations bills.

 


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