President Signs Energy Bill

President Bush has signed a comprehensive energy bill that raises fuel-economy standards and requires a significant increase in biofuels production.

The new law is "a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding production of renewable fuels and giving future generations a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure," the president said.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation (H.R. 6) with a 314 to 100 vote on Dec. 18, and the U.S. Senate approved the legislation last week. The new law also establishes new efficiency requirements for household appliances and government buildings and contains a provision to phase out incandescent light bulbs within the next decade.

According to analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the law's fuel-economy and renewable-fuel standards combined will save the country 2.3 million barrels of oil a day in 2020, more than what the United States currently imports from the Persian Gulf. The fuel-economy provisions alone will create 149,300 jobs and save consumers $22 billion at the pump every year starting in 2020, even after paying for the fuel-saving technology needed to meet the standards. In addition, the fuel-economy standards will prevent more than 190 million metric tons of global warming emissions in 2020, according to UCS.

"For too long, America has been starved for leadership on energy policy. Congress has overcome the obstacles that have blocked progress for more than 30 years. This law is a very significant, concrete and long overdue step forward," said Kevin Knobloch, UCS president.

Critics contend that the new law will make cars and trucks more expensive, divert farmland to costly production of feedstock for ethanol and other synthetic fuels and raise the price of food due to competition between food producers and fuel refiners for corn and grain.

According to the Competitive Enterprises Institute, more stringent fuel-economy regulations for cars and light trucks, known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), will make vehicles less crashworthy in accidents.

"Of all the questionable provisions in the current energy bill, making CAFE more stringent is by far the worst. While the subsidies and mandates will waste the taxpayers' money, this one will cost lives," said Sam Kazman, general counsel with the institute.

Supporters of the legislation said they were disappointed that the measure does not contain a tax increase on oil companies and a requirement that utilities produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. The White House threatened to veto the measure, in part, over the tax hike, and the Senate eliminated both provisions before passing the legislation.

For more information on the new law, go to http://thomas.loc.gov, a Web site of the Library of Congress.

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