House, Senate efforts on energy fall short
Congress has struggled to put together meaningful energy legislation.
AMERICANS hoping for strong legislation to shift the country's energy strategies toward reducing global warming and fossil fuel consumption will not find bills passed by the House and Senate entirely fulfilling.
The measure the House struggled to complete before quitting the beltway for a month's vacation contains no provisions to boost automobile fuel economy standards as Speaker Nancy Pelosi bowed to the wishes of Michigan Democrat John Dingell and others who, in turn, bowed to the wishes of the auto industry.
The Senate -- though it had the sense to include fuel economy standards -- has taken a pass on requirements to generate a minimal percentage of electricity through renewable sources. Without these elements, the nation's prospects for change are dim. When Congress returns to work, members should make sure to integrate both in conference legislation.
Fuel economy standards, stuck for decades at 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and trucks, would be increased to 35 mpg by the year 2020 under the Senate bill. It is a less than ideal pace, but automakers -- despite growing consumer demand for hybrids and less gasoline-hungry vehicles -- continue to balk at producing more fuel-efficient cars.
Meanwhile, the powerful utility industry dismisses renewable energy as too costly and unrealistic. What is too costly and unrealistic is to cling to energy production through polluting coal and oil. The industry also argues that a renewable energy mandate will conflict with those that 24 states, including Hawaii, have established, but that's easily overcome by allowing states to exceed national benchmarks.
What truly stands in the way of energy transformation isn't technology or expense, but politicians' inability to look beyond the next election cycle.
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