Bush to sign energy bill that calls for massive increase in the use of biofuels

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.

Congress on Tuesday approved the energy bill, which includes the first increase in automobile fuel economy in 32 years, and President Bush plans to sign the legislation today.

The energy bill, boosting mileage by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon, passed the House 314-100, following the Senate’s approval last week.

In a dramatic shift to spur increased demand for nonfossil fuels, the bill also requires a huge increase in ethanol use to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a boon to farmers. And it requires new energy efficiency standards for an array of appliances, lighting and commercial and government buildings.

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

The Washington think tank has estimated it will 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 will increase the price of a vehicle an estimated $1,500, consumers will save $5,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle, once the new standards are fully implemented.

Democrats maintain the overall bill, including more ethanol use and various efficiency requirements and incentives, will reduce U.S. oil demand by 4 million barrels a day by 2030, more than twice the daily imports from the Persian Gulf.

The centerpiece of the bill is the requirement for automakers to increase their industrywide vehicle fuel efficiency to an industry average of 35 mpg by 2020 compared with today’s 25 mpg when including passenger cars as well as SUVs and small trucks.

Congress has not changed the auto mileage requirement since it was first enacted in 1975.

The bill requires a massive increase in the production of ethanol for motor fuels, outlining a ramp-up of ethanol use from the roughly 6 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022. After 2015, the emphasis would be on expanded use of cellulosic ethanol, made from such feedstock as switchgrass and wood chips, with two thirds of the ethanol — 21 billion gallons a year — from sources other than corn.

However, commercially viable production of cellulosic ethanol has yet to be proven and some Republicans have argued that the new requirements could be impossible to meet and may raise corn prices and food supplies.

The bill requires improved efficiency standards for lighting, commercial and government buildings, and appliances such as refrigerators, dishwashers and freezers. It also tells the Energy Department to issue efficiency standards more quickly.

Starting in 2012, conventional 100-watt light bulbs will begin to be phased out. A provision would require light bulbs to be at least three times more efficient than current ones by 2020.

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