Congress OKs energy bill

Fuel economy rules for vehicles raised for first time in 32 years

December 19, 2007|By Richard Simon | Richard Simon,Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Soon, you won't find those old-fashioned 100-watt incandescent light bulbs in stores. You will be able to buy more energy-efficient appliances. And you will see labels on TVs and computers that tell you how much energy they consume.

You will see stickers on new cars that specify not only how many miles they get per gallon but how many greenhouse gases they emit. And when you pull up to the pump, you will fill your car with a mixture of gasoline and made-in-the-USA biofuel.

Those are some of the ways that the new energy bill will affect everyday life.

Congress gave final approval yesterday to the 822-page measure, sending it up Pennsylvania Avenue to President Bush in a hybrid Prius. Bush is scheduled today to sign the bill, which includes the first congressional increase in vehicle fuel-economy standards in 32 years, at a ceremony at the Energy Department.

Although the tougher vehicle miles-per-gallon rules have grabbed the headlines, the bill includes a number of lower-profile measures aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on oil and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

"In this bill, we ban by 2012 the famously inefficient 100-watt incandescent bulb," said Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who co-sponsored that provision.

The House gave final approval to the measure, 314 to 100. The Senate approved it last week, 86 to 8. In addition to the 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for new cars and light trucks by 2020, for a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg, the bill requires a fivefold increase - to 36 billion gallons - in the amount of alternative home-grown fuels, such as ethanol, that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply by 2022.

Rep. John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill would improve the energy efficiency of "almost every significant product and tool and appliance that we use, from light bulbs to light trucks."

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has projected that the bill would reduce energy use by 7 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 9 percent in 2030.

The Washington think tank has also estimated it would save consumers and businesses more than $400 billion between now and 2030, "accounting for both energy cost savings and the moderately higher price of energy-efficient products."

Energy analysts project that, although the tougher miles-per-gallon rules would increase the price of a vehicle an estimated $1,500, consumers would save $5,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle, once the new standards are fully implemented.

The tightened federal fuel efficiency standards are separate from laws passed by Maryland and a dozen other states to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles, although both steps result in less fuel burned and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

In April, the Maryland General Assembly passed a "Clean Cars" law, modeled after a similar law in California, that requires automakers to cut their fleetwide emissions of global warming gases for all vehicles sold in the state by 30 percent by 2016.

"It's a pleasant surprise to see the White House do anything when it comes to cleaning up the environment," said Maryland state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat who co-sponsored Gov. Martin O'Malley's "Clean Cars" bill in the spring.

Richard Simon writes for the Los Angeles Times. Sun reporter Tom Pelton contributed to this article.

The new standards

Energy standards: Congress approved yesterday the first increase in automobile fuel economy in 32 years.

Swift: The White House said President Bush would sign the legislation today at the Energy Department.

Results: The bill would boost mileage by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon and require a sixfold increase in ethanol use by 2022.

[Associated Press]

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