A new energy independence plan

17 years ago

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives took a huge step forward in transforming our national energy policy by passing the “New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act”.     This bill is meant to send one simple message: Congress is no longer catering to Big Oil and other special interests in crafting our nation’s energy policy. Instead, the focus will be on lessening our country’s dependence on fossil fuels and focusing on cleaner alternatives, many of which can be produced here in the United States rather than imported. This will save us money, produce less pollution, and make us far less reliant on foreign oil.
Clearing the way for a path to energy independence takes a major shift in mindset and priorities from the approach that the administration and the previous Congress had taken.
The legislation starts by making the largest investment in history to improve how we grow, produce, transport, and store biofuels for our cars and trucks. This is an approach that is good for America and particularly attractive to Maine, with our large potential to create biofuels from our natural resource base. The legislation includes grants and tax incentives to boost the production of biofuels, the number of Flex Fuel and other alternative fuel vehicles, and stations with E-85 ethanol pumps.
A second priority in the bill, and one that should really help Maine consumers in the long term, is lowering energy prices through greater efficiency. The legislation requires utilities to generate 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind power, biomass, wave, tidal, geothermal and solar. This would reduce global warming emissions, lower energy prices and decrease fossil fuel and natural gas consumption, saving $240 billion in electricity costs by 2026. This measure is endorsed by a broad range of businesses, manufacturers, electric utilities, labor organizations, farm groups, faith-based organizations and environmental advocates.
The legislation also includes landmark energy efficiency provisions that would save consumers and businesses at least $300 billion through 2030 — and would directly help Mainers’ pocketbooks. It would require more energy efficient appliances, such as dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and freezers. It would require improved commercial building energy efficiency, and assist consumers in improving the efficiency of their homes. The legislation also extends existing tax credits for producing renewable energy — including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro, landfill gas and waste energy — and creates new incentives for the use and production of renewable energy.
A key focus of this approach is to ensure that our emphasis on energy efficiency leads to new American jobs. Major investments in renewable energy are projected to create as many as 3 million “green jobs” over 10 years. The initiative creates an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to train a quality workforce for “green jobs” — such as solar panel manufacturers and green building construction workers.
For too long, opponents of energy efficiency have tried to play off business, labor, and environmental concerns against each other. But it is clear that the investments in this bill will not only create new industries with new jobs, but also give our businesses a stronger edge against foreign competitors by lowering their energy costs.
In fact, one piece of this legislation that matters a lot to Maine is a plan to increase the ability of small business to develop energy efficient technologies. The legislation provides loans, education and investment to small firms to help them become more energy independent — saving them money and providing innovation in our job-creating small business sector.
In the big picture, this bill will also directly combat global warming: it is estimated to result in a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 14 billion tons through 2030 — nearly twice the annual emissions of all of the cars on the road in America today. While I would have liked to have seen this bill directly address some issues like stronger automotive fuel efficiency standards, which I have supported in other legislation, it is expected that the Congress will tackle these standards this fall. The bill also calls on the U.S. to re-engage and lead the global effort on a binding global warming agreement, with commitments from major emitters including China, India, and Brazil. All of these efforts should help to bring the global thermometer down.
Overall, this legislation will help guide our country toward a cleaner, more independent, and more competitive energy posture. This is a true energy plan for the future.