Thursday, March 13, 2008

2008 Energy Update -- Reducing Oil Dependency

As published on AskPatty in Jan 2008.


Here is an update to the 2008 Energy Bill blog that I wrote in early December. On December 19th, President Bush finally signed this bill into law, although it is a much weaker version than what Democrats had wanted. The initial goals were ambitious: energy efficient vehicles, less dependence on foreign oil, cleaner fuels, and punishment for price gouging by oil companies. In the end, the bill mainly address “oil independence” only.

Given that energy usage for transportation and electricity are the biggest contributor to the greenhouse gas, and climate change is such an urgent problem, it is a big disappointment that our government has (once again) missed a major opportunity for effecting significant change in the arena. The victories should definitely be celebrated, but they are nowhere near the decisive steps we need to address climate crisis as a country. It would have been a historic opportunity for Congress and Senate to create incentives that encourage growth of new industries (i.e. renewable energy in wind, solar, electric cars), which, in turn, creates new jobs in America. Alas, it is not to be. I supposed we will need to wait another year.

Here are the components of the bill.


Raise CAFÉ standard for minimum miles-per-gallon for cars and light truck from 25mph to 35mph (first time in 30 years) by 2020


Requirement to increase biofuel production to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. 21 billion gallons must come from non- corn-based ethanol – which is better for the environment. For comparison, we currently use 140 billion gallons of fuel per year, with 6B gallon coming from ethanol.


Phasing out incandenscent light bulbs in favor of CFL light bulbs which are more energy efficient – by 2012


Tax on fossil-fuel companies, e.g. Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Shell, which would have raised $20B to finance investment and production of wind and solar power.


Requiring utilities to get 15% of their electricity from renewable source


8-year extension of the 30% investment tax credit for solar installations in businesses
6-year extension of the investment tax credit for residential solar systems, with a $4000 cap
Note: The existing solar investment tax credits will expire in 2008, which will reduce demand for solar panels. This spells trouble for the nascent solar industry. Also, note that the current residential cap is $2000.


Compared to the 2005 energy bill, where the emphasis was to boost oil production, this bill is such a sea change and reflects the new world we live in today. Let’s hope that we continue making progress on legislations that increases energy efficiency and alternative energy adoption. We owe it to the future generations to meet our needs today, without sacrificing their ability to meet their needs in the future. Continuing our dependence on fossil fuel and continuing to emit increasing amount of greenhouse gas is the surest way we squander our responsibility. That, in essence, is the definition of sustainability.

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