The House Energy Bill -- What You Can Do to Help Change Federal Energy Policy for the Better

I have some homework for the readers of TOD, if you all are up for it. We need many pairs of eyes and excellent minds to contribute to a project that could be important for our democratic Republic.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has more influence over what will make it into the House Energy Bill than any other Member. Under House procedure, the Rules Committee has the job of taking all of the energy-related bills approved by the various committees that have some jurisdiction over energy and combining them into one bill -- hundreds, if not thousands of pages with no time to consider the interaction of the pieces and parts.

A draft Energy bill will be released at a news conference perhaps on a coming Friday afternoon--we're not exactly sure when. By close of business the following Monday or Tuesday, proposed amendments to the bill have to be drafted into legislative language by Legislative Counsel and submitted by Members to the Rules Committee.

The next day or so after that, the Rules Committee will meet to consider which amendments are "in order" and will be allowed to have a 10 minute debate and a vote on the Floor. Any proposed amendments have to be "germane" -- the non-partisan Parliamentarian's office has to declare the amendment is related to narrowing or changing a specific provision already in the bill. If it's not related to something already in the bill, it's not germane. The Rules Committee is stacked with Members in a 9 to 5 ratio of Democratic Majority to Republican Minority. The Democrats are loyal to the Speaker, Republicans to Boehner, as it usually goes. So amendments that are politically undesirable to the Speaker and the Majority can also be denied a Floor vote.

Bottom Line -- There's a lot to do, lots of rules to follow and little time to do it. What The Oil Drum folks can do to help can be found under the fold.

There's a lot of detective work involved in this little experiment.

The plan is right now for TOD to blast the House of Representatives with a link to this thread and the comments as the time becomes right. It's time to make some hay. Keep it civil. Staffers will be reading this thread. Be conscious of that, please.

Here's what The Oil Drum can do:

It all starts at and CRS: (Congressional Research Service).

The priority: We need to review the Committee-approved bills that will be sent to the Rules Committee and propose changes to improve them that would promote conservation, efficiency, transition to renewables and sustainable EROEI.

Provisions that are egregious violations of these goals are targets for amendments to "strike" or delete them or to strike and replace them with something similar, but different and better.

For sure, everything in the Senate or House bill will not be/is not worthy. The bottom line consideration -- would the overall bill be better or worse than perpetuation of the status quo? So, let's do what we can to steer the rudder.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has been regularly updating its analyses of major energy bills moving through Congress. These reports are available for downloading off the internet by the public.

Places to find specific likely bills to be combined into THE SINGLE House Energy bill (that's how this sausage is going to be made):

H.R. 6 already approved by the House had a lot of placeholder provisions -- so it has to be reviewed-- it will be back as part of the bill Rules will put together.

The Ways and Means Committee has approved a bill with tax changes.

The Natural Resources Committee has approved a bill sponsored by its Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV, biggest coal district in WVA).

The Energy and Commerce Committee hasn't yet approved a bill. Energy and Air Quality Subcomm. Chairman Rick Boucher (biggest coal district in Appalachian VA) has produced a draft that has been reported on. Energy and Commerce Chairman is John Dingell (MI).

The Agriculture Committee may have approved a bill(s). There is a draft Farm Bill with an Energy Title--some of that might also make its way into the House Energy bill.

The NOPEC bill and the Price Gouging bills from the Judiciary Committee already approved by the House may come back as part of the comprehensive House bill. There is a veto threat against the price gouging bill.

The Science and Technology Committee has approved a half-dozen bipartisan R&D energy bills.

The Transportation Committee may have approved some bills. Can't find them yet.

Remember, the Senate bill will NOT be the House bill. Even the House bill that is passed will go to a Conference (which is another whole set of problems, but let's cross that bridge later). However, to the extent there are provisions in the Senate bill that are good or bad -- those should be flagged for action in the House -- to support/add the good and oppose/strike the bad. And that's where you all come in.

Time Frame -

Energy and Commerce is supposed to mark up the Boucher bill this week.

Perhaps a comprehensive bill will be introduced on Friday, June 29 and a summary if not draft legislation circulating for review over the July 2-6 District Work Period. Legislation might not be posted on the Thomas website, or the House website for several days after it's introduced because of its size. That means that you need to dig through the committees' websites linked at the site.

Remember also, the House of Representatives is constituency driven. What I mean by that is that congresspersons and their staffers really only listen to their constituents or their leadership, that's about it. That means you need to share these ideas and recommendation(s) whether it is for/against specific amendments and the final package with your Member.

The main Capitol Switchboard phone number is 202-225-3121. They will connect you to any requested Member's office or committee office. At -- the main House home page, there is a link to all of the Committee websites and Members' websites and a zipcode locator search function that will identify your Member for those who don't know.

(fyi, this post will be in existence for quite a while, and it will be kept somewhere in the top 10 posts until the Energy bill makes its way through the House.)

(edited) Hats off to PG for providing the links, proactive is better than noactive.

Maybe after this exercise we can determine the truth of another old saying:
"If pro is the opposite of con, then Progress is the opposite of Congress."

Easy on the polemic. This thread should be credible and substantive.

Debate all you wish about the component parts of the energy bill, but keep it on point please.

Off topic comments and the responses to them will be deleted.

The plan is right now for TOD to blast the House of Representatives with a link to this thread and the comments as the time becomes right. It's time to make some hay. Keep it civil. Staffers will be reading this thread. Be conscious of that, please.

I'm glad you have confidence in the TOD commenters, but I'd suggest not sending them this thread for a couple of reasons and instead send them a distilled version ("greatest hits" or whatever) of what's been discussed. One of my reasons behind this is that, as an open and unsecured thread, we always get some nutties. People outside of our group here already think we're nuts, and if we inside the group think someone's a little off their rocker - someone from outside is going to think we should be committed. Second - and perhaps the most important - if these people don't have time to actually read the bill they're you think they're going to spend the time wading through 300 comments, 70% of which will probably end up as irrelevant fluff, 25% will have at least one tidbit to add and if you're lucky 5% will be exceptionally well put together.

So I would definitely recommend sending some form of distilled, unified statement, composed from the ideas put forth in the comments - rather than the comment thread itself. You can send the link to the thread if you wish, but it would seem best to send something a little more user friendly if you actually want them to pay attention to it.

Sorry PG I didn't know you considered "b*z*" a 4 letter word!
At any rate calls on this site for a direct energy consumption tax must be confronted.
Not only is a tax political suicide, IMO those who propose it simply haven't thought it through as they ought.
As I have argued before energy tax will not have the desired result.
A more equitable method would be to lower the speed limit.

A lower speed limits hurts the wastrels and thrifty equally.

If we need to cut back on oil consumption, the way to do it is to impose an oil consumption tax.  It's as simple as that.  It is only "political suicide" if the oil producers aren't named as the main parties to profit from the current situation (whether they produced it or not).  A pol who argues for keeping more of that money at home by taxing what would otherwise go out of the country can sell the idea.

Who gets the money? All you hurt is the poor. As I've said before there are plenty of weekend warriors hauling every kinda "pleasurecraft" imaginable who zip down the highway at 85mph+. Do you think a few bucks more is gonna stop him?
There are real fuel savings(thats what this is all about, right?) in lowering the speed limit on the Interstates. And an indirect tax on those who willingly break that speed limit. Again, figure out who is the fuel hog here and target him, indiscriminate taxation is something we once went to War about.

Who gets the money? All you hurt is the poor.

You know something?  I have been seeing that same excuse for literally fifteen years.  It was bogus then, and it's bogus now.  You have to move the new-vehicle fleet away from guzzlers sometime, and the poor are going to have to wait for them to come onto the used market anyway.  Delaying the pain has only prolonged it.

Who takes the hit depends on where the tax money goes.  If it goes into a deductible on employment taxes, the poor come out ahead.

As I've said before there are plenty of weekend warriors hauling every kinda "pleasurecraft" imaginable who zip down the highway at 85mph+. Do you think a few bucks more is gonna stop him?

It's already stopping the casual excursions of rich powerboaters, it'll hit the "weekend warrior" lifestyle too.  I bet it already is.  Five bucks a gallon will pare it back even further.  Using the bully pulpit to paint it as unpatriotic... that could go far.

There are real fuel savings(thats what this is all about, right?) in lowering the speed limit on the Interstates.

Only if people obey them.  I remember the hated "double nickel".  People went to extreme lengths to evade it.

There are also real fuel savings in changing people's other choices:

  • More careful driving (coasting to lights, etc).
  • Combining and reducing trips.
  • More economical vehicles.

This actually produced a decline in US gasoline consumption from the late 70's through about 1985.  The biggest effect was people's reaction to the price spike.  Another price spike would do it again, especially if it was accepted as a patriotic measure.  After all, what's better:  an F350 driving 55, or a Honda Insight cruising at 75?

figure out who is the fuel hog here and target him

Is there any way other than gallons used to measure this?  Is there any better place to hit them than at the pump?

indiscriminate taxation is something we once went to War about.

Recycling, economizing and rationing are measures we've used to help win wars.

Disclaimer:  I have done work for all of the Big 3, either directly or through subcontract firms.  I know whereof I speak.

You know something? I have been seeing that same excuse for literally fifteen years. It was bogus then, and it's bogus now.

Increased taxes were a bad idea 15 years ago and they will always be a bad idea. Can you name examples where an increase in taxes actually had the desired effect? Other than increasing revenue which is what taxation is all about. Try Googling "sin tax".

You have to move the new-vehicle fleet away from guzzlers sometime, and the poor are going to have to wait for them to come onto the used market anyway. Delaying the pain has only prolonged it.

I couldn't agree with you more on this as I have argued the same for the 20+years(and hurt my career) I've been in this industry.
I actually had a job pumping gas when it was $0.29, when the embargo hit it jumped to $0.43 but nobody stopped buying. We only stopped when we literally ran out of gas to sell. That experience has stayed with me.

Who takes the hit depends on where the tax money goes. If it goes into a deductible on employment taxes, the poor come out ahead.

Now you're hoping. Direct evidence is to the contrary. Most pro taxers on this forum believe some good will come from an energy tax, I argue show me. What is our government doing now with our tax dollars? If you're OK with that then I can't argue with you.

It's already stopping the casual excursions of rich powerboaters, it'll hit the "weekend warrior" lifestyle too. I bet it already is.

I'd like to see some numbers on this because I think the analogy of the "boiling frog" comes into play. People(at least those who can afford it) will adjust to higher prices, tax induced or not.

Only if people obey them. I remember the hated "double nickel". People went to extreme lengths to evade it.

Thats when you lay the whammy on them. If they hate the 55mph speed limit, they'll hate the $300, $400, $? fine even more. BTW try 60mph its much less hateful. :-)

This actually produced a decline in US gasoline consumption from the late 70's through about 1985.

Oddly enough wasn't the speed limit mostly 55 during that time?

Another price spike would do it again, especially if it was accepted as a patriotic measure. After all, what's better: an F350 driving 55, or a Honda Insight cruising at 75?

What is patriotic about driving a Jap car?

Is there any way other than gallons used to measure this? Is there any better place to hit them than at the pump?

Good point. The amount of gallons purchased is how I'd put it. Sounds more like rationing to me.

Thanks EP for responding, you've given me plenty to think about. The fixation many on this site have with higher fuel taxes really perplexes me.

Can you name examples where an increase in taxes actually had the desired effect?

Are you really that ignorant?

  • Motor fuel taxes in Britain have been key to holding consumption flat over a period when US consumption rose steeply.
  • Tax penalty of gasoline over diesel fuel has driven European vehicles to be 50% diesels.
  • Tax preference of trucking over railroads (freeways pay no property taxes, railroads do) has helped drive most US freight to trucks and pushed the cannibalization of rail infrastructure (removal of rails to cut taxes).

One of the key principles of economics is that taxes discourage activity.  If you want to cut the amount of fuel used, tax it more.

Increased taxes were a bad idea 15 years ago and they will always be a bad idea.

Yeah, they would have done us a pile of harm:

  • They could have made hybids and plug-in hybrids attractive fifteen years sooner.
  • They could have prevented the SUV craze.
  • They could have continued, rather than stalled, the push towards better economy which started in the 70's.

And they certainly would have done a better job of pushing the US towards energy independence than the CAFE fiasco.

Direct evidence is to the contrary. Most pro taxers on this forum believe some good will come from an energy tax, I argue show me. What is our government doing now with our tax dollars?

Our government is using income tax dollars to pay for the cost of defending the oil supply.  This is a subsidy of oil worth hundreds of billions of dollars per year — the better part of a trillion dollars so far.  If this had been charged to the consumers of the oil instead, the problem might have solved itself as people substituted efficiency and engineering for oil.  Instead, the consumers didn't get a choice.

wasn't the speed limit mostly 55 during that time?

The speed limit was constant, but US gasoline consumption slid from 1978 to 1982.  It didn't reach 1978 levels again until 1993, despite a considerable economic expansion over that period.

What is patriotic about driving a Jap car?

When the money you save isn't going to a Marxist or terrorist.

The amount of gallons purchased is how I'd put it. Sounds more like rationing to me.

The word "rationing" came from you, not me.  All I suggested is making each gallon hurt more, not telling people how many they can have.  Thriftier cars are like CF bulbs, reduced driving is like turning lights off when you leave the room.  The more it pays to do it, the more people will get serious about it.

The fixation many on this site have with higher fuel taxes really perplexes me.

Your dogmatic unwillingness to understand mystifies me.

Are you really that ignorant?

Be nice, I gave blood today, what did you do for your fellow man?
Lets tackle these one at a time and compare our levels of ignorance.

"Motor fuel taxes in Britain have been key to holding consumption flat over a period when US consumption rose steeply."
They've also spurred a panic and near shutdown of the British economy.

"Tax penalty of gasoline over diesel fuel has driven European vehicles to be 50% diesels."
So substituting one fossil fuel for another is some kind of improvement of the condition? I guess you'd like to see lots of particulate emitting diesels on our roads?

"Tax preference of trucking over railroads (freeways pay no property taxes, railroads do) has helped drive most US freight to trucks and pushed the cannibalization of rail infrastructure (removal of rails to cut taxes)."
So the tax burden was shifted to the common man, very progressive!

"One of the key principles of economics is that taxes discourage activity"
So by your reasoning the government of Germany, in announcing a 19% sales tax is trying to discourage undesirable behavior like ... commerce! Anyone who believes taxation is a tool for other than revenue is fooling themselves.

"They could have made hybids and plug-in hybrids attractive fifteen years sooner."
Sorry, the technology for hybrids, series or parallel, was not available then. Rather than tax consumption why not reward alternatives with reinstating the tax incentives that Reagan summarily dismissed?

They could have prevented the SUV craze.
My company's vice president spent an afternoon at a Home Depot watching people load their various vehicles with stuff for their homes. This was after the SUV "craze" was well underway. But when clinical trials of new vehicles were held, respondents said they felt unsafe in smaller vehicles (see my post below) partly because of your tax subsidized trucking.

They could have continued, rather than stalled, the push towards better economy which started in the 70's.
Well, I didn't vote for Reagan, did you?

Our government is using income tax dollars to pay for the cost of defending the oil supply.
Do you really believe there is a lock box that War funds are appropriated from? Grow up! The tax you favor will only add to the pile.

Your dogmatic unwillingness to understand mystifies me.
As much as I'd like to go on, I have to work in the morning and the job I have demands it all from me (let me hear ONE comment about the "lazy American auto worker" grrrrrrrrrr).
When discussing dogma, lets stretch out our minds a bit and consider ALL human activity.
Life teaches us that there are three types of practical activity; one can build up, one can destroy or one can steal. What category do you think accurately describes the tax collector?

You really need to work on your reading comprehension.

They've also spurred a panic and near shutdown of the British economy.

Non sequitur.  The shutdown was caused by deliberate actions to block activity, not the economic impact of fuel prices.  British fuel prices are over twice US levels and the country still runs; they even have the phenomenon of "Chelsea tractors" on the roads.

So substituting one fossil fuel for another is some kind of improvement of the condition?

You asked, and I quote, "Can you name examples where an increase in taxes actually had the desired effect?"  Europe increased taxes on gasoline to drive demand for diesels, which are more efficient.  This had the desired effect.

I guess you'd like to see lots of particulate emitting diesels on our roads?

Non sequitur.  You asked for an example.  Europe got the desired effect, whether it was a good idea or not.

So the tax burden was shifted to the common man, very progressive!

Quite the opposite, but this was an entirely foreseeable effect of the tax policy.

So by your reasoning the government of Germany, in announcing a 19% sales tax is trying to discourage undesirable behavior like ... commerce!

Desirable or not, it is a foreseeable effect.

"They could have made hybids and plug-in hybrids attractive fifteen years sooner."

Sorry, the technology for hybrids, series or parallel, was not available then.

"Mother Earth News" published an article on a home-built series hybrid in 1978.  The technology has been around since the 1930's.

why not reward alternatives

Because that only rewards particular favored options (including some with low or even negative benefits, like ethanol from corn), while a fuel tax rewards all real alternatives including efficiency measures.  If the real cost of oil (all costs and externalities included) is anything close to the $480/barrel calculated by some, even a $3/gallon gasoline tax is only 1/3 of the way to parity.

respondents said they felt unsafe in smaller vehicles (see my post below) partly because of your tax subsidized trucking.

It isn't mine.  I have long opposed fuel tax breaks for trucking, and that was before I knew about the property-tax issue.

Your dishonesty in ascribing support to me is noted.

I didn't vote for Reagan, did you?

I voted for Anderson.

I have to work in the morning and the job I have demands it all from me

My heart bleeds for you.  I have been working evenings to get work done.  I will be at work tonight, tomorrow, and through the holiday weekend.  I would be at work now if I wasn't recovering from a virus which has sapped my energy.

lets stretch out our minds a bit and consider ALL human activity.

We have established that taxes discourage the activities which incur taxes.  Let's consider the merits of taxing BADS, not GOODS.  Imported oil and carbon emissions are BADS.

So's dishonesty.  You have become a liability to TOD.  I suggest you clean up your act.

The Good: The CAFE standard which came out of the Senate is surprisingly good policy by Washington standards. I would suggest keeping this intact. 35 mpg by 2020 is at the upper end of the range of what is doable.

The Bad: The proposal for 36 billion gallons of ethanol (15 billion from corn) must die. In 2006 we made a little over 5 billion gallons of corn ethanol and we can already see rising prices for steak and other things thanks to the soaring price of corn. Food has become a major contributor to inflation. Imagine how much worse things will get if we triple ethanol production from corn. Rising food prices hit everyone, but are especially noticeable to poor people and women.

On an energy basis, corn ethanol already costs 40% more than gasoline (July wholesale futures). Yes, ethanol does presently cost less per gallon, but a gallon of ethanol contains much less energy than a gallon of gasoline. A gallon of ethanol only has 68% as much energy as a gallon of gasoline. Driving on ethanol costs more. A vote to force us to use more ethanol is a vote to raise the price of driving.

As for cellulosic ethanol that is still experimental. The estimates I have seen indicate it will cost twice as much as corn ethanol. Requiring that 15% of our car fuel comes from this source is idiotic. Maybe there will be a breakthrough in this area, and maybe not. Making all that fuel will require 200 million tons per year of biomass. Maybe farms and forests can produce this sustainably, and maybe they can't. Why do we have to go so fast?

Congress is drunk on ethanol, and wants to drive at full speed across a bridge that isn't built yet. Better leave that sort of thing to the Dukes of Hazzard.

The Ugly: The price gouging stuff is American Socialism. Remember the gas lines of the 70s?

And what makes Congress think we have the power to enforce a NOPEC lawsuit? They'll tell us to get lost. They will sell US assets if they fear them being taken. The whole idea is American hubris on steroids.

I can see one use for the NOPEC act:  informing the exporters (esp. Saudi Arabia) that they won't be able to use supply constraints to extract lots of wealth from the West and still keep it out of the hands of their restive masses.

In other words, keep pumping as fast as you can or you're toast.

Can I ask -- as politely as possible -- why you state that "35 mpg by 2020 is at the upper end of the range of what is doable." This is not in accord with anything that I hear / read that I take with a grain of salt. 35 mpg is, perhaps, only 'at the upper end' if we assume that efficiency gain priorities will focus on improved 'performance' rather than improved mpg (preferably is gpm, but will put that aside for the moment) and that American vehicles will simply continue to grow in weight and power.

I agree, 35 mph seems far from the upper end of the range of what is do-able, technically. Nevertheless, politically it may be at the upper end of what is do-able.

But, should TOD / energy specialists / people concerned about Peak Oil celebrate 35 mpg? (35 mph would probably get us far better than 35 mpg ...) We should be pointing out, imo, that "politically acceptable" is not adequate for dealing with real-world challenges like Peak Oil.

A, I am with you--but as you surely are well aware by now, politically palatable is all that MoC's CAN care about if they like their job.

That's why I am pushing for valuable insights inside the framework of the legislating process as it stands currently. We are not going to persuade any MoC's of much of anything in two weeks without a massive movement and events on our side.

All I am suggesting is that we help steer the rudder as much as we can without losing the bargaining game. That's ALL this is right now, a bargaining game--understanding which bills need improving/amending, which bills to support, and the interplay between pieces of legislation doing a lot of damage...

My view that 35 mpg is the upper end of what is doable is based on a couple of things. 35 mpg is a 40% increase over where we are today. In 2002 the National Academy of Sciences did a study which I think concluded that a 25% increase in fuel economy was possible using then current tech. It would add $1000 to the cost of a vehicle which would be paid back in gas savings over the life of the car. To get a 40% improvement we will need some new tech by 2020 which probably means hybrids.

Secondly, other countries are targeting 35 mpg or less except for Japan which I think is going for 40 mpg. They want to get there before 2020 but they don't have as far to go as we do.

Thirdly Americans have always demanded larger cars and will not accept the superminis that Europeans and Japanese ride around in. Also, Europeans use diesels to get their high fuel economy and US emmissions standards make diesels difficult.

Finally many Americans would like to give Detroit a chance of survival. Those companies are very weak, and if they fail the well paid union jobs and pension plans will be a thing of the past. If you set the CAFE standard too high then they are doomed. Of course if they get their way and do nothing on fuel economy, then they are also doomed.

I really hope you're talking about political feasibility, but the way you're saying it almost implies you're not. The technology is sitting around to pretty much easily do 60mpg cars - no hybrid required. That would be cars that would look "normal" on todays roads. Look at the VW Lupo...3liters per 100km, basically in the 80mpg range. Then there are zillions of cars that Americans have never heard of that are running around in Europe. Take a look at this link. There are four cars that they tested there that get 45mpg or better at 55mph and only one, the Prius, is available in the US. Hell, the Echo is available in the US and my friend that owns one usually pulls 40mpg real-world fuel economy and I know he doesn't drive slowly. After you look around Europe and see all the great cars they have over there that get fuel mileage that would easily exceed the lame 35mpg standard just put through the Senate you can turn your starry eyes to The Loremo and The VW 1 Liter. The Loremo is slated to be a production car and expected to get 140ish MPG, and the VW 1 Liter which was more of a concept car but also a proof of concept vehicle in the upper 200MPG's. Hat nod to The VentureOne (100mpg) and The Aptera (230mpg) and The Mercedes Boxfish (80mpg, and not at all small or slow)

If Detroit would put as much effort into engineering as it did into marketing and image manufacturing, it might actually build some decent cars. Todays cars are dime a dozen overglorified throw away toys meant to be cheap to manufacture and their aerodynamics are dictated by the marketing department. If the guys on can increase their fuel economy 15% with simple homebrew modifications to existing vehicles like fender skirts, grille blocking and body pans, imagine what an actual effort by engineers with CFD and wind tunnels might acheive. After years of lobbying for and promoting the status quo, Detroit's dug their own grave and it's high time they lay in it.

It's really a question of political and commercial feasibility. I've been travelling between the US and UK for years, and when I come back to the US all the US cars look huge. It's always been that way. US cars used to be super long and wide, now they are massive in every dimension compared to a typical European vehicle. I think it is a cultural thing. Also car parks and roads are about one third narrower in the UK than what we are used to here in the States. Large cars are not fun to drive over there. Europeans are quite happy with cars that are small, fast and corner well.

Your 80mpg Lupo is an impressive piece of engineering, but on a US road it would look like a toy car. Very few Americans would buy it willingly. In fact, there are plenty of Europeans who want something bigger and more powerful.

I drive a Toyota Yaris and get over 40+ on the highway right now. With the new diesel hybrids coming on line in Europe, 40 will be a embarrassing small number shortly.
Getting the sheeple to give up driving the 4X4 to WallCrap for a case of Bud will be the big hurdle (during half time of course.

A key point you haven't mentioned is that the 35mpg requirement is for all passenger vehicles. That is, they are proposing to do away with the car/truck distinction. Recall that truck sales are more than 50% of American passenger vehicle sales (see Ward's Automotive most recent update.

The average US fuel economy is about 17mpg, since there are so many trucks out there. The average new vehicle fuel economy is about 22mpg. The proposal for a 35mpg new vehicle average by 2020 is quite a bit more impressive when you consider that it includes trucks.

The way CAFE is set up is interesting, for sure. The legislation is definitely a step in the right direction, though the idea of the "footprint" is a little disturbing as it's likely to form a giant loophole big enough to drive an SUV through. That link you provide actually shows sales about perfectly split, which is a little surprising as I'd imagined it more biased towards truck sales. The CAFE is calculated based on the fuel economy and fleet sales. So if you were to have an SUV/light truck rated at 20 mpg...on a 1 to 1 basis for CAFE purposes you would have to have a 50mpg vehicle to counter it. On a 2 to 1 basis to counter a 20mpg SUV/Truck the other vehicles would have to be rated at 42.5mpg. An SUV at 25mpg would require a 45mpg vehicle to counter it or two 40 mpg vehicles. Of course they can put out all the 35mpg vehicles they want. So that would, indeed, be impressive...but it'll be interesting to see how the "footprint" wild card plays out and the flex fuel credits. The only problem with it being impressive in comparison to today's standards is that it's still not going to be enough, the production decline is more than likely going to overrun its effect by a long shot. But considering the people who passed it (supposedly) aren't aware of peak oil makes it even more amazing that it got through. Through the re-introduction of the mini-truck, aero improvements, minor overall size reduction, and minor power reduction, increased diesel fleet, and possibly a few hyper-mileage cars thrown in, I think 35mpg would be achievable without hybrids and without a "holy s$h!t" dramatic change in the way things look.

Hi Sub
Ever had a semi on your tail for an hour because you made the mistake of flashing your brights when you passed? In your 3cylinder 50mpg car? Think Duel. Thats the kind of vehicle you're going to have to share the road with. And I don't see anything in the legislation improving semi fuel economy.(correct me if I'm wrong)
The main thrust of this legislation is aimed at the pick up. And that is going to affect the pocketbook of many Americans.

If the guys on can increase their fuel economy 15% with simple homebrew modifications to existing vehicles like fender skirts, grille blocking and body pans, imagine what an actual effort by engineers with CFD and wind tunnels might acheive.

Hooboy! Skirts! As an automotive designer let me state catagorically that if skirts would sell they'd be on every damn vehicle we make!
Sure theres more to be got from aero and weight too but I was talking to some guys from the aero group the other day and they have made trucks that get great mileage. How? Carbon fiber and titanium! Is anybody out there willing to pay $100,000+ for a 40mpg pick up? Because if there are enough of you we sure as hell will make them!

"As an automotive designer..."

Ah, you are one of "they." Now that I've insulted you...

Ever had a semi on your tail for an hour because you made the mistake of flashing your brights when you passed? In your 3cylinder 50mpg car? Think Duel. Thats the kind of vehicle you're going to have to share the road with.

This is probably the worst argument I've ever heard. Even if you pissed off the driver of an 18 wheeler, and they started tailgating could, my gosh!, pull off at the next offramp. It's exceedingly unlikely that they'd follow you and waste their time and money. They're professional drivers and they simply aren't that stupid.

And I don't see anything in the legislation improving semi fuel economy.

Holy H311, you slipped in an actual point! 18 wheelers do have a ways to go, especially aerodynmically. Look at the designs of Luigi Colani, for example. Large improvements in efficiency using standard engines. A lower speed limit specifically for trucks would also help fuel efficiency and create jobs.

Hooboy! Skirts! As an automotive designer let me state catagorically that if skirts would sell they'd be on every damn vehicle we make!

1957 Chevy Belair, 1956 Ford Thunderbird...these are classics, man. The fender skirts can live again. They just need the marketing departments behind them instead of "Got flaccid penis? Drive a NITRO!!! It'll perk that sucker right up!" Yes, a barn door will make you more manly.

Sure theres more to be got from aero and weight too but I was talking to some guys from the aero group the other day and they have made trucks that get great mileage. How? Carbon fiber and titanium!

Sounds like they're unimaginative, or as I said before...ruled by the marketing department.

"In 2002 the National Academy of Sciences did a study which I think concluded that a 25% increase in fuel economy was possible using then current tech."

I'm driving a '95 Prizm. Typically this car gets 25mpg in my mixed high/city use. Simply by driving more conservatively (max 45-50mph, slow starts at lights) I can bump the mileage up by 20%. With aggressive conservation I can get 33mpg.

Thus I question the idea that it would take technology changes to make a great impact on our fuel consumption. The weakest link in automotive efficiency is the nut behind the steering wheel.

Electric utilities have discovered that immediate feedback on consumption very quickly results in voluntary individual conservation. Perhaps what is needed is not technology changes to the cars, but instrumentation changes.

Many BMW's (and other cars as well I imagine) have a button on the console that puts the vehicle into 'sport' mode where the computer adjusts shift points and fuel mixture for maximum performance. Perhaps new vehicles should be required to have a software option that places strong performance limits to assist the driver's natural impulse to drive aggressivly. This could be as simple as a 'conservation' button, much like the 'sport' button on the BMW.

Along with this would be a consumption rate meter in a conspicuous location. Perhaps as a head-up display of some sort, so that drivers are aware of it during acceleration, when their attention is typically on the traffic around them. This would help them to understand which driving behaviors consume the most fuel. The indicator would provide both a quantitative measure (cc/s) and qualitative measure (e.g., green or red light of varying intensity).

These ideas do not require any changes to the technology in the vehicles and can provide a 25 to 35 percent increase in fuel economy, driver willing. Once a driver has learned the driving habits of conservation the gains extend to other vehicles he drives as well.

So, future legislation might pick the low-hanging fruit by requiring car makers to include a performance-limiting dash switch that limits the fuel consumption of the vehicle at the users option and a short-period moving average fuel consumption rate indicator. This allows car makers to very cheaply encourage conservative behavior without requiring them to invent new technology or to significantly reduce the performance characteristics of their offerings.

As an extension auto makers might include a very simple short range wireless communication module that would allow vehicles to share their consumption information. Each vehicle would compare it's own consumption rate with that of the vehicles around it and then display to the driver his ranking. This would be designed to encourage competitive conservation. (Some people would cheat by broadcasting false signals of course, but if widely deployed cheaters would have minimal impact)

Remember the gas lines of the 70s?

Is that a bad thing?

More and more, I'm coming to believe that the big changes in fuel economy in the last energy crisis were caused by gas shortages, not high prices.

You may be right, that shortages are a necessary prerequisite for both consumer and legislative response. In my experience, the fear of shortages was much greater than the reality. For example, people with ski boats would put six five-gallon cans of gasoline on top of their station wagon so as to be assured of a weekend of high-speed boating--but the marina never ran out of gas.

People do change their behavior in response to fear, and the fear of shortages is a far more potent motivator than the reality of high prices.

Yep. Look at Europe - high prices no longer have any impact.

What has an impact are
- actual shortages - that hits home pretty directly
- brutal price changes - that works too, but only for a while (cf Katrina)
- regular price increases, each sufficient to be noticed, and frequent enough that the pain is real each time. That gets the message across slower, but more durably.

A simple test of what has an effect os to look at car ads - do they focus on fuel efficiency (or lower emissions), or on other features (price, security, room, luxury, whatever...)?

"Look at Europe - high prices no longer have any impact."

Wow, I had no idea people were buying so many V8 light trucks in Europe. Half of new vehicle sales there are trucks as well?

Gas lines will be a very bad thing for the politicians that cause them.

Shortages, high prices, what's the difference? If there are shortages a black market will form with gas available, but at very high prices. If prices are high enough, for many low income people it looks just like a shortage.

I think the big changes in fuel economy were due to 1) a decade of rising prices and 2) expectations of higher prices in the future. We haven't seen big changes yet because we've only had a few years of rising prices and people still believe that prices will come down when the middle east mess is straightened out. As more people understand that the quagmire in Iraq *is* the future of the middle east, expectations for higher prices in the future will change, and people will make decisions accordingly.

The price gouging stuff
Anti-price gauging measures do indeed walk over the line of socialism for many people - but as someone who's not afraid of the word, more importantly, they're horrible policy compared to what could be - a market-based energy incentive.

As oil supply diminishes, and before that diminishes in comparison to growing demand, the price will rise drastically, and continue to rise. If the US economy sees a total supply decline rate of 5% (not difficult to imagine for such a huge importer as us, if you take into account how possessive other nations will get when they discover their reserves will vastly appreciate over time), that means that 5% of consumers and businesses are priced out of the market for fuel. Every single year.

The prices needed to do this to the US population are much higher than they are now - all of which is going to go to the oil industry. They are going to see their revenues double, triple, quadruple, or more in the end, for pumping an ever-shrinking amount. This is first-year economics combined with a knowledge of our dependence on fossil fuels.

The better option
Government intervention. Tax fossil fuel, and tax it heavily. Then, give it all back to the people, making the load on the average consumer no different than before. The average consumer sees gas go way up, but gets a big check at the end of the year which fully compensates for that, and feels entitled to it after a short while. You can fiddle with the provisions for receiving this check and use the side effects to help solve the immigration crisis as well, if you like.

There are two methods of doing this.

Strict-Supply Carbon Cap and Trade - Every US citizen at tax time gets a piece of plastic entitled "2008: 100 tons of CO2," Every major carbon emitter or supplier for minor carbon emitters needs to own enough credits for what they sold by the end of the year. The work is subcontracted out to retail and internet brokers, and the end result is you can walk into a 7-11 and come out minus a card, plus a few thousand dollars. The coal factory buys it from 7-11. Credits can only be issued by the US government, are only needed for fossil fuels, and the total amount declines by a few percent a year - that is the way it needs to be to avoid impossible-to-audit scams + shell games like 'plant a forest, burn a coal mine.' Requires a strong enforcement mechanism.

Direct Taxation and Rebate - You tax each fossil fuel by a steadily increasing amount, based on import reliance, pollution, and greenhouse gasses. At the end of the year, the total amount is split up and divided equally in a check to every taxpayer. Requires prescient prediction power, annual analysis + adjustments, and is called a 'tax.'

Simplicity is important, effectiveness is important. Both of these schemes raise the price of fuel, without harming the average consumer. That $3000 extra to buy a hybrid? That finally becomes justifiable, as a way of saving money. Insulating your house better(huge opportunity for return here)? Cheaper than not doing it. Flourescents? Cheaper than not doing it. About a billion energy-saving practices that I'm not mentioning, most of which I can't even imagine, and which Congress certainly doesn't have the power to anticipate? They become viable. The consumer has to pick between taking his RV cross-country for vacation at $10k or staying in hotels for $5k (the RV costs $3k to run at current prices).

The oil companies wouldn't make outrageously more than they make now, even with an ever-tightening supply.

The point is that the market's position on the supply/demand curve is going to shift, and it gets pretty damn steep. Either the money from the higher prices can go to the government and back to the consumer to save energy the best way he can think of, or it can go to oil companies and the military to go to ever-more-impractical lengths to secure the last drops of oil.

Biofuels get encouraged either way through natural market/price competition, which is more effective than Congressional subsidies (*cough*FarmBillPork*cough)can ever be. With the artificial increases, they just get a jump start on the actual scarcities, meaning the US gets a jump start on getting ready for a world-changing phenomena, instead of panicking at the last minute.

I'm not ruling out government assistance for energy saving measures, like free insulation to low-income households (I have a friend who does this in England). But it's merely a gesture, unlikely to be taken advantage of or repeated, unless it's hung on a framework of need: a framework you can create via high fossil fuel taxes.

Side effect: Being eligible for a rebate of some form, in credits or cash, becomes a huge deal for the lowest income residents. Confine it to citizens, and you'll see immigration shrink because they can't afford to live here with such high fuel prices. Do whatever you want with it.

Side effect: Enviro-gasm. Clean energy can compete on its own terms without subsidies, and the most successful businesses with the best practices (rather than the one with the best lobbyists) will see those practices standardize. The US CAN be the leader in the world alternative energy industry, if it wants to. And as an industry that's got several million percent of growth to do this century, you want it to.

Unintentional side effect: Manufacturing takes a big hit with this. A shift in trade policies is overdue at this point, and artificially high fuel prices need to be factored into any kind of trade policy. Europe shows that it's far from impossible, though, to square high energy prices with a successful export sector.

Sorry guys but no one at the DOE is going to take our contribution seriously should we choose to litter it with asinine postings on ethanol such as cellulosic ethanol is 'experimental' or that there isin't enough biomass to make 30% of our fuel needs.

Constructive yes. Critical yes. Uninformed no.

Peak Oil is a liquid transportation fuels crisis and ethanol -irrespective of the source or production path utilized- is part of the world mitigation strategy of said crisis.

For the U.S. specifically, 1st, 2nd and 3rd gen biofuels are right now converging into the integrated biorefinery construct envisoned by NREL and similar institutions.

The major hurdle, however, is again, prioritization - prioritization as it pertains to funding, scope and implementation.

Time is not our friend.

Agree with the above comment. Prof. Goose - people asserting that cellulosic ethanol is 'experimental' should be required to back this with evidence - ie evidence that it's not within 3-5 year commercialization timeframe. The DOE, with its knowledge of the sector, seems confident that it is. I work in the sector, and what I've seen backs this up. Not all of the current cellulosic ethanol operations will succeed, but some will, and those that do will become commercial quickly. So far we've only had two serious attempts at commercial cellulosic ethanol

1) Iogen - a bust - has never run to design parameters
2) Abengoa (Europe) - reasonably successful

and the technology has been moving considerably (particularly with regard to enzyme costs) on in the time since both these operations began

So, to conclude - we shouldn't allow boiler-plate statements like 'cellulosic ethanol won't work anytime in the next 10 years'. Anyone who's familiar with the science and commercialization efforts going on in the US in particular would say that there is certainly enough effort being put into this to have a good chance of success (with SOME technology SOMEWHERE).

Congress has clearly made the political decision (and this is what Congress DO) that the people of the United States want a significant effort to be made in the cellulosic ethanol arena, and that the current state of advancement in the science involved is enough to warrant that effort. I don't see why they should be second-guessed. We can disagree on the methods, amounts, direction and timing of any legislation of course!


I'm contacting Roscoe Bartlett, as he is my Congressman. I want to ask him 10 questions about Peak Oil and the pending energy bill. I also want to provide him with a list of 10 "musts" in the pending energy bill. I'm checking to see if we can record the responses on video for further dissemination. I'd appreciate if we could collectively pull together a top 10 question list and a top 10 must list that I, as well as all of us in the U.S., could use to help change Federal Energy policy for the better.


1. Favor efficiency above all else -- negawatts and negagallons. In governance, tax code, research & development, etc ...

2. Start with the government -- at all levels, from local to national. (E.g., any federal aid for building local school or housing should require that it be LEED (Silver) at a minimum.) (A good starting point would be Energize America's Neighborhood Power Act (now called the Energy Smart Communities Act ...

3. Work tax code to favor renewables and efficiency over consumption of fossil fuels. Right now, a business burns fuel -- tax deductible that year. Make a capital investment that promises to reduce future energy use -- could be a 39.5 year depreciation schedule. Hmmm ...

4. Further electrification of the economy and into transportation: Move toward smart(er) grid; electrified rail (favoring, it seems to me, move to diesel-electric hybrids that can 'plug-in' (use overhead wires where available)); PHEVs/EVs (with smart(er) grid using these for storage)

5. Tax code to favor Smart(er) Growth (as part of overall policy seeking to be Energy Smart throughout the economy)

6. R&D -- R&D on energy (especially efficiency, renewables (of all sorts), nuclear power) should be funding above the level that it was under Jimmy Carter -- e.g., perhaps a multiple of ten is in order just on federal level.

7. Renewable Power Standard -- 15% by 2020, nationwide, should be MINIMUM (prefer Richardson's proposal of 30%, but 20% is highly achievable)

8. Programs to ease transition from fossil fuel economy -- such as for coal-dependent regions

9. Tax free ride from fossil fuel (e.g., pollution, at least) and move toward full funding of highway infrastructure through gasoline FEES (NOT TAXES -- this is road usage fees)

10. Foster / support businesses in 21st century domain to improve both energy efficiency, US domestic economic performance, and to improve Balance of Trade (both through reduced oil/energy imports and through export of technology). US used to be lead in wind, solar, etc ... time to recapture this AND keep as much of the manufacturing in the US as possible.

That is an off the top of the head shot at ten items.

Education. People understand why immigration and war are important. We need much more of a publicity push to get people to understand why conservation is important, to give them a sense that conservation and sustainability are the most important issues of today and the future. Show them how lack of conservation is a primary cause of global warming and how they can do something about it while also making the world a better place through relocalization and walkable/bikable community efforts.

Hello Prof. Goose,

I sent an advance heads-up to my Az Rep: John Shadegg, to let him know that TOD is involved.
To Rep. Shadegg,, or what we call TOD, is the leading energy website forum on the WWWeb. We are running a huge write-in campaign to our various govt. Reps to let them know our energy concerns in advance of the upcoming draft Energy Bill [possibly from the House by next Friday?]. Thxs for your reply in advance.

Any energy reform has to start with conservation and efficiency, thus rebuilding our railroads and mass-transit is a vital first step as we go postPeak. The age of the personal automobile is ending; it is not thermodynamically supportable in the new paradigm of constantly shrinking fossil fuel quantities. Author Jim Kunstler has written much about this topic, and other experts say we must move to a culture of relocalized permaculture if we hope to retain some measure of civilization.

Us TOD members will be looking forward to reading and commenting on this upcoming Draft to help improve taxpayer input.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

The string is off to a very good start:

1. The CAFE standard is very reasonable-Support
2. The ethanol standard is not doable and will put a massive strain on natural gas supply and food prices-Oppose
3. Endorsement of rail development and electric rail in particular, excellent intercity as well as in intracity rail. If the Europeans can do it, we should be able to! Support
4. Photovoltaic electricity can reduce greenhouse gas and natural gas consumption. Support by working toward easy grid access and hook up for photovoltaic and distributed generation systems. Support
5. Is there any provision for support of methane recapture from landfill and sewer systems? If so they should be supported on the basis of greenhouse gas reduction, and more efficient power production. Again, reduced strain on natural gas consumption and reduced use of coal is the goal. Support
6. Is there any part of the bill in support of carbon sequester and clean coal technology. If so, Support.
7. Plug hybrid technology. We must support the most revolutionary technical breakthrough in transportation technology of this century.
8. Hydraulic Hybrid technology as developed in association with the EPA. Continued research and development. Great possible application in commercial vehicles. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and Diesel fuel consumption. Support.

O.K., there are eight points that we can work with, everyone should be on point, and all work toward reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced fossil fuel consumption.

Now, in frankness and in reference to an above post....can we kind of agree on something? Maybe it would be safest to leave Kunstler and the raging attack on the automobile and suburbia out of the discussion this time around....:-)

Roger Conner Jr.
Remember we are only one cubic mile from freedom

Again, if one is at all serious about Peak Oil -- which, for some odd reason, it seems that so many here are -- how can anyone be celebrating the 35 mpg CAFE standard by 2020?

* PHEVs (see, for example, and
* EVs
* Lightweighting (such as RMI's Hypercar / the Loremo / etc (see, for example, and
* High-performance diesel

Etc ...

All of these could quickly be moving up the mpg and moving well past 35 mpg.

In addition, the question becomes what happens when tax code, regulation, culture shifts to favoring smaller/more efficient over the gas guzzling culture that the Big Three have been fostering?

Is supporting this CAFE standard as somehow aggressive part of the astroturfing going on by the auto industry? (see

The 35 MPG includes light trucks and SUVs.

It's a good level, if somewhat slow, considering what most of us believe will happen by 2020. I would target it at 2012, by which time the next gen of battery tech will be mainstream-priced, and serial hybrids using it will be completely practical.

Much better would be to shift driving habits by the amount and type of driving that is done, rather than by the type of vehicle sold.

That means tax fuel and let people decide what the hell and how much they want to drive when fuel costs are a significant part of total cost of ownership. Mopeds aren't factored into CAFE - a sudden explosion of 100mpg scooters would cause a major decrease in CAFE mileage, as they replace light hybrids for the same uses. I'm considering getting a vehicle that probably won't qualify( ), and I don't think Congress CAN define a top-down standard that catches nearly as many energy-saving niches as a bottom-up fuel tax would.

IMO, CAFE is a feel-good relic of a time when gas at the gas station being cheaper than water at the gas station was considered an urgent political necessity. A gallon of gasoline represents around 400 man-hours of hard labor - it's time we accepted that fact, and valued fossil fuels as more than frivolities.

See my post above on more details.

Ahhh ... The VentureOne ... I love the VentureOne (see:

My issues:

* Good example of how system biases against good energy choices. I would get something like the VentureOne for commute / solo travel (sometimes need to drive 400 miles, roundtrip, alone). But, I also have a family, thus I need more space for picking up kids/such. Thus, if sensible, I would have two vehicles -- one a PHEV VentureOne (liquid fuel equiv, >100 mpg) and the other (if available) a PHEV minivan/sedan (replacing current 20-25 mpg Sienna minivan). My total mileage, however, would remain basically the same, but my energy/fuel to achieve them would fall rather dramatically. Problem in system: not only is there the (not minor) capital expenditure cost issue, but there is licensing / insurance / etc. By getting that additional vehicle, I would add probably 90+% (haven't calculated) to my total 'base cost' of ownership (other than pure operating costs), with that 'paperwork' portion a substantial part of that. Hmmm ... does fiscality drive one away from the EnergySmart choice?

2. Re VentureOne, wonder where they are in terms of bringing something to market? Haven't heard much from them in a couple months.

3. Don't love that this is "motorcycle", which means motorcycle license required, helmet required. Seems somewhat off from how it handles and claimed safety.

35 MPG seems to be far too low, to me. My sister-in-law owns an SUV that already gets 32 mpg. So a 35 mpg version would require nothing more than reducing the weight of the rims.

That's lame and certainly not the kind of advance we need to see in order to have an impact. US automakers have been cloaking their laziness behind job-loss fears (scaring labor into fighting against their own kinds' future). What they really need is an incentive to jump-start their R&D efforts, so they can make the kids of innovations which will make them more competitive in a future where petroleum fuels will be more expensive, and increasingly scarce.

Real, not symbolic, changes to CAFE standards provided such an incentive in the past, and can do so again. This symbolic stuff is a waste of everyone's time, and squanders the short time window we have available to prepare for the significant changes that are on the way.

Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.

I have to jump in and support the 35 mph standard as the best available political option. I think there is an absolute need to go out in the blog world and sell the best option, but if we approach these congressman and say 35 mph isn't good enough, I am pretty sure they will shut us off.

Personally, I don't think any approach will be effective in the long run without raising the price of energy. Can't imagine a carbon tax getting 30 votes this time round.

Hello Roger,

Thxs for responding--always interesting on what you have to say. IMO, gradual relocalization is eminently doable if we start making gradual changes now and Alan Drake's RR & TOD is just the lynchpin to get this started.

For example: if urban vehicle congestion charges are installed, then this can free some eventual land from parking garages, and other auto dominanted land usage, to be converted to community gardens. Ideally, this garden land shouldn't be more than a couple of walkable miles from a transit station so properly designed zoning regs would be crucial to maximizing the benefits. Tax law could be amended so that this garden area could receive tax relief greater than the energy saved from this relocalization process. It would setup a self-reinforcing feedback loop to speed further mass-transit and additional urban and suburban gardens at appropriate human-scale geo-distances.

Any community harvest would be tax-free to the gardeners to help further leapfrog this strategy, and the landowner would be paid a crop percentage slightly greater than the now much lower tax-bill. He can then sell this fresh produce at a profit to his non-gardening neighbors easily undercutting pricewise the expensive long distance food imports.

The House Energy Bill just needs to include basic 'structural framework' laws that will allow each state and/city to determine for themselves the best gradual transition path in each habitat. IMO, gradual vehicle-decline and relocalization growth is just the gradual reversing of the earlier cheap-oil vehicle growth and localization decline.

No raging attack, just a gradual procedural transition change that recognizes, then legislatively emphasizes the entirely appropriate new direction for the postPeak era.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

1. Agree
2. You give no justification as to why this is not do-able. Congress should set targets and goals, no shoo-ins. Explain, please.
3. Fact is that Europe has an infrastructure built up over decades that the U.S. doesn't have, but please, go ahead and pretend that's not the case if you like
4., 5. fine
6. Umm.... so, cellulosic ethanol isn't do-able but large scale CCS is? What, exactly, are you smoking?
7,8 fair enough


Vote against these oil subsidies, we should be funding renewables not throwing good money after bad:
SA 1618 Inhofe Allows 100% tax deduction of expenditures for qualified 3D seismic data.
SA 1619 Inhofe Eliminates taxable income limit on percentage depletion for oil and natural gas produced from marginal properties.
SA 1620 Inhofe Increases tax exemptions for independent producers and royalty owners.
SA 1621 Inhofe Increases phaseout threshold credit for producing oil and gas from marginal wells.
SA 1622 Inhofe Expands the definition of “small refiner” from 75,000 to 100,000 barrels per day.


The problem with your rant against subsidies is that we need to produce as much energy domesticially as possible-we are importing 14mmbopd, out of a consumption of 21 mmbopd. We been increasing imports for 35 years, and our balance of payments and debt problems are out of control.

My suggestion is this-limit the deductability of any capital expenditure unless it can be offset dollar-for-dollar with investments in domestic production or refining efficiency. And the same with depletion, with an exemption for anyone making less than $100,000 per year of oil income. Depletion should have a limit of say 125% of the cash invested in the project with increase in the depletion basis from dry holes in the USA.

A question:

You say that the CRS reports are available to download online. That surprises me since this is not Congressional policy to allow CRS to publish openly. Many of the docs are published ... but by others.

Do you have a specific source in mind?

Are flex-fuel vehicles still being used as a cheat to work SUVs past CAFE? IIRC, the way it works is that the miles per gallon of gasoline in E85 mode (15% gasoline) is averaged with the miles per gallon of gasoline in normal unleaded mode (95% gasoline). This gives a grossly inaccurate CAFE standard, and lets a car suddenly become 75% more efficient in the eyes of the law because it gets a cheap tuneup.

We need to come down with a better incentive. All it takes to put in ethanol is some software adjustments for timing and a tweak to the fuel tank. $100-$200.

Easier - Use a simple penalty tax: Tax any mass-market gasoline car that can't use E85 $300. Meanwhile, use normal gasoline to calculate CAFE standards, and require that both the E85 MPG and the gasoline MPG go on the window sticker.

You can do the same thing for diesel/biodiesel if you want, though biodiesel is basically compatible with all modern diesels with synthetic rubber fuel lines.

Or with Autogas(aka Liquified Petroleum Gas aka Propane/Butane mix) and Compressed Natural Gas, though these vehicles basically only exist in a fleet setting in the US (and IMO should be subsidized rather than taxed).

Many people agree on some kind of reduction in our use of oil. Several here have suggested taxing gasoline heavily and putting the money into research programs or other areas to compensate for future oil decline.
I suggest that we look at the bigger picture of Consumption, and realize that our desire for things we don't need is the biggest part of the problem. Separating our Consumption Addiction into Energy bills, Environmental bills, Medical Insurance bills, and Farm bills is avoiding the root problem: that we are encouraging large entities to continue 'business as usual'. That business is the business of Perpetual Growth and Waste.
We don't need new technologies to solve our consumption problem. We only need to live differently. Mandatory efficiency standards for cars doesn't change the efficiency of our people. Productivity is not efficiency if it is dependent upon finite resources.
Good must be determined not only by what satisfies the most people, but what will be benefiting the most people for the longest time . We have to think about centuries, not 4-year profit margins.
Only one bill needs to be considered: The FairTax bill. Make it a higher rate. Increase the prebate, and you feed the poor while reducing unnecessary consumption.
ALL government services are a result of how much we own or consume. Connect the feedback loop and let everyone know how much it costs every time they purchase anything, not just gasoline.
Save us all some time and frustration: get rid of the Energy Bill, the IRS, and the Income Tax boondoggle while reducing our dependence on foreign oil, foreign foods, foreign workers, and foreign resources. We can't buy our way out of debt with more debt. It's time for the hens to come home to roost.

That is not going to happen auntiegrav. It's not going to happen in this bill anyway...and that is what we are narrowly discussing in this thread.

Keep the discussion to Realpolitik please. Debate the cons of that Realpolitik in another thread if you wish.

Prof. Goose requests,
"Keep the discussion to Realpolitik please. Debate the cons of that Realpolitik in another thread if you wish."

Yes, that is exactly it: For example, when some complain that more than 35 MPG isnow technically doable and will be even more easily doable by 2020.

But we are discussing here is POLITICALLY DOABLE.

Likewise, any revolutions intending to destroy suburbia and relocate millions, ban the motorcar from all metro areas, enforce the riding of bicycles on the public, enforce mandatory population control, etc, Is probably not going to make it into this bill.

I do sometimes wonder what country....scratch that, WHAT WORLD these folks are living in. I don't mean that sarcastically, it really is worrisome.

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom

I hear you Roger. Believe me, I'd love to play "if I were king" all day. That's not going to matter much when the rubber meets the road in this legislative session.

That's why all of our efforts on persuasion matter...that's why it's called The Oil Drum, it just keeps beating, keeps persuading...

But I also thought it was time we used some of this brainpower to put a little of our own wind in the sails of things. Worth a shot anyway.

There is plenty of wind. The problems are:
1. The boat is on a dangerous course, and
2. We're going full speed ahead, with nobody listening to the lookouts.

Nobody wants to ease the sheets so as to sail slower; this would be called a voluntary recession, and in political terms is either treason or insanity.

We are the lookouts sending messages to the officers--but they are too busy entertaining the passengers to pay attention.

A world that might seem to make sense. I have trouble with this one too.

This discussion is not really about solving the problem, but rather about moving the political system to a point where solution is politically possible. I agree that small, effective and realistic steps provide the best strategy for moving the political agenda.

I can't see any possible solution to the combined energy/global warming problem that doesn't involve CO2 sequestration. I propose we ask for 5 pilot projects to start ASAP.

Second Concept,

Maybe some of the ethanol experts could post a couple of example letters on why ethanol probably won't work. I would love to send one to my congressman.

So let's think about additions (not alternatives) to mandates.

Why not incentives to exceed the mandates?  This gets the manufacturers and public to reach for what's technologically possible, not just what's politically possible.

Tax credits & Subsidies - general comments:

For whatever subsidies and tax credits that might be on the table, the single most important thing is to provide some long-term consistency. On-again, off-again incentives are worse than no incentives at all. Most of the renewable energy and energy efficiency investments that could benefit from some form of federal incentive are long-term investments, and need to have some certainties that they can plan around.

Tax credits for household energy efficiency or renewable energy investments don't provide much help for the many people not in the upper half of the income distribution. Many of them live in older housing stock that could benefit from energy upgrades, but these households lack the wherewithall to come up with the money, even if they do get tax credits. There needs to be some way to advance money to these people up front to help them with these investments.

Energy taxes vs. carbon cap-&-trade systems:

Most economists have concluded that a generalized, broad based carbon-equivalent tax on all forms of energy is the way to go. There are few things the federal government could do that would be more effective in promoting energy efficiency and non-carbon-sourced energy supply development.

Energy generating facilities:

A grand deal needs to be forged with regard to the siting of all energy generating facilities (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, hydro, biogas, nuclear, coal, etc.): The federal government will undertake a comprehensive survey to identify the best sites for each type of energy generation facilities. Local "NIMBY" residents will not be allowed to block these facilities just because they don't like them being there. However, the other side of the deal is that siting criteria will be very rigorous and designed to assure maximum protection for human populations and the natural environment. There will also be tough regulations implemented to assure that energy generating facilities are competently constructed and operated to the highest possible safety standards -- ESPECIALLY with regard to Nuclear.

Special attention should be given to the development of biogas (methane) generation facilities utilizing municipal and agricultural waste streams. The technology is mature and available now. Not only could this provide a significant supplement to our tightening natural gas supplies, it also reduces the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A combination of grants to local governments and new federal regulatory mandates are needed to put this on a fast track nationwide.

Transportation - mass transit & passenger rail:

A massive expansion of electrified urban mass transit and intercity passenger rail is needed. This is the single most important thing they could do.

Federal civil servants and military personnel should be strongly encouraged to use urban mass transit and intercity passenger rail whenever possible, and should be given preferential travel reimbursements to promote this. Federal policy should be to provide civil servants with the scheduling flexibility to allow travel by passenger rail.

Transportation - safe bicycle & pedestrian pathways

A special grant program is needed to provide local governments with the funding to build more sidewalks and safe pedestrian pathways, and to create safe bikeways. People cannot walk or bicycle if they have to risk their lives to do so.

Transportation - CAFE vs alternative schemes

There is a better alternative to CAFE: Implement a new federal tax on motor vehicles, based upon their fuel efficiency. The less efficient the vehicle, the higher the tax. Manufacturers can make and buyers can buy whatever they want, but those buying inefficient vehicles will pay more for them up front. This would be a preferable approach to a higher gasoline tax, because it targets only those buying new replacement vehicles rather than everyone, and thus does not penalize those stuck with vehicles they had purchased earlier. It is likely that such an approach will drive average vehicle fuel efficiency up faster than the CAFE approach would.

Transportation - electric vehicles

I'd like to see the federal government do more to promote the use of neighborhood electric vehicles. Initiatives to consider:

1. Mandate that all state and local governments make NEVs street-legal within citiy limits, except on Interstate and other high-speed roadways.

2. Mandate that the US Postal Service implement a plan to change over their delivery vehicle fleet to NEVs within a reasonable time frame (5 or 7 years, perhaps?)

3. Mandate that parking lots at all Federal government facilities have spaces that are equipped with metered NEV recharging stations. The percentage of spaces so equipped must increase by at least 10% or one space, whichever is greater, until 100% of parking spaces are so equipped. Make special funding available for the retrofitting of NEV recharging parking spaces that are powered by PV panels. (The PV panels could be set up above the parking space, forming sort of a roof over the NEV.)

4. Establish a special grant program to assist state and local governments to purchase NEVs to replace existing vehicles in their fleets and to provide recharging parking spaces at government facilities and along streets and public parking lots.

5. Provide tax incentives for both commercial fleets and for individuals to purchase NEVs, and for recharging parking stations to be set up at commercial facilities.

Transportation - biofuels:

IF the federal government is going to be in the business of promoting biofuels at all, corn-based ethanol is the wrong choice. Biodiesel is a better choice. The EROEI is considerably better. Diesel engines are inherently more energy efficient. Most essential transport, agricultural, construction, public safety, and service equipment is fueled by diesel rather than gasoline. While I take a generally dim view of the whole idea of federal government intervention in the market to promote biofuels, a case could be made in favor of assuring that a certain minimum level of domestic biodiesel production and distribution capacity is developed and maintained to assure that essential equipment can be fueled and kept running.


Let the market decide and allow 179 deductions for wind and PV.

The Chinese government, who can afford to subsidize the industries that make long term sense (and penalize those that don't). They have announced a moratorium on ethanol production:

China's communist rulers announced a moratorium on the production of ethanol from corn and other food crops yesterday at the very time that Western leaders are rushing to embrace alternative food-based fuel technology.

link here

My own work shows that energy may not be the limiting factor in the future, though it appears to be now. The most intensive fossil fuel uses an order of magnitude less water than the best biofuel. My colleague Kenneth Mulder and I have a paper on this pending that I will post here when accepted called "Burning Water - The Energy Return on Water Invested". Too much of our renewable focus is on biofuels - if I have time this week, I will try and write a specific rider to that effect. (though others feel free too)

The quickest way to reduce consumption of gasoline would be to impose a federal tax. I would like to see a portion of this tax money used to create incentives/tax credits for purchasing renewables, investment in public transportation, and a national ad campaign to influence the behavior of drivers.

According to the website,

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

Fuel Economy Benefit: 5-33%
Equivalent Gasoline Savings: $0.16-$1.06/gallon

The site also suggests,

While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

Observing the speed limit is also safer.

Fuel Economy Benefit: 7-23%
Equivalent Gasoline Savings: $0.23-$0.74/gallon

I know that both the fuel tax and lower speed limits are politically unpopular, but there are simple appeals that can be made to make the voter understand that these actions are necessary.

1. Lower consumption will equal lower demand which will lead to cheaper gas. If each American driver followed the suggestions above (and others on the site), we could reduce our comsumption by 5-10% today with no new technology, new vehicles etc.

2. Since we are at war and currently have American soldiers sacrificing, dying and being seriously injured daily, it is time for the American people to make some sacrifices. Paying a little more for gas, driving slower, or using public transportation are all small sacrifices compared to what we ask from our servicemen.

I would also like to see an increase in the number of diesel vehicles used. Automakers could be required to make all new light trucks/SUV's diesel within 2-3-4 years. I believe that diesels are something like %20 more efficient that Internal Combustion Engines (ICE). This would allow the American consumer to still have the choice to purchase larger vehicles while driving up efficiency.

Requiring more freight to be moved by rail would also save us a lot of fuel. Our "just in time" inventories save businesses money, but at the cost of massive amounts of trucking which burns a lot of fuel and damages our roads.

Don't become a Buddhist. The world doesn't need more Buddhists. Do practice compassion. The world does need more compassion. -- Dalai Lama

phreefallin, an import tax would be more politicially palletable and just as effective. Call it an Independence Tax, and use all the proceeds for mass transit and sustainable alternative fuels-wind and solar.

Hello, this is my first time posting here, although I've been lurking for several months and have been following peak oil for several years now. I have to say, I am extremely impressed by the level of professionalism and well-researched expertise here at theoildrum. Keep it up!

Anyways, here's my dream peak oil energy bill. To the extent that the points in this proposal correspond to points being discussed in the energy bill currently being debated in congress, y'all can integrate those points into whatever messages you send out to your representatives.

1. Gasoline tax

In addition to existing gasoline taxes, I would implement a new gasoline tax whose revenues are allocated specifically for peak oil-preparedness. The tax would increase by 1% per month for 100 months, at the end of which period we would have a 100% tax on our gasoline, effectively doubling the cost of gasoline over the course of about 8 years (not including natural gas price increases due to the market). The revenues from this tax would be allocated towards several broad categories:
*Subsidizing renewable electricity generation, aiming for a 30% renewable electricity market-share by 2020 (~40%)
*Developing an automobile infrastructure centered around renewable electricity (parking lots with PV-powered chargers for plug-in electric or hybrid cars, etc.) (~10%)
*Repairing/extending rail shipping infrastructure and electrifying it (~10%)
*Developing light-rail projects for passengers in cities all around the country along the lines of what Alanfrombigeasy has proposed (~10%)
*Conservation and efficiency efforts (~20%)
*New urbanism planning, renovation, and reconstruction efforts (~10%)

2. Keep the 35 mpg CAFE standard by 2020 provision. It certainly won't hurt, even if it might become redundant/obsolete with...

3. A new fuel mileage tax on new automobile purchases, as follows:
*>100 mpg/electric: 0%
*70-100 mpg: 1%
*50-70 mpg: 2%
*40-50 mpg: 3%
*35-40 mpg: 4%
*30-35 mpg: 5%
*27-30 mpg: 6%
*24-27 mpg: 7%
*21-24 mpg: 8%
*18-21 mpg: 9%
*15-18 mpg: 10%
*12-15 mpg: 11%
*9-12 mpg: 12%
*6-9 mpg: 13%
*3-6 mpg: 14%
*<3 mpg: 15%

This will also encourage the use of mass transit. The revenues from this tax will be divided up likewise as with the first tax described above.

To help alleviate the general financial hardship that this will create for families, and to help all families have an opportunity to retrofit their lifestyles towards efficiency and sustainability, I would also ideally like to have a budget provision in which taxpayers across the board receive $500 per dependent per year in tax rebates, financed by decreasing military spending by $150 billion dollars annually (in part from withdrawing from Iraq, in part from a general decrease in spending).

Taxes take people's money and that makes people suspicious and uncooperative. I think we'd do much better to encourage change from the bottom up, making changes that open people's eyes to what they are doing and helping them to see a better way.

We should focus on doing the things that educate people and encourage them to do the right things. For example, in an earlier post I suggested that new cars be required to have a 'conservation mode' button on the dash. This is like the 'sport mode' buttons on some cars, but the other way around, it saves fuel at the expense of high performance. Completely optional and cheap, it puts the power in people's hands without taking their money.

Walkable community efforts. Provide increased federal funds to build pervasive walking and biking trails away from roads and in communities. Here in Omaha we have nearly 70 miles of such trails, many of which are located near rail and water ways, which means they are flat and comfortable to use. They also extend through parks which makes them a pleasure to use. Encourage use of these first and foremost by making sure they provide very widespread access to shopping centers and communities as well as schools and libraries.

That last part is critically important. We want to teach our children that bicycling to where they want to go is The Way. To do that we have to ensure that there are good paths for them to go where they need and want to go, school, library, store, local hangouts, etc. We're planning for the future here, and they are the future, give them the infrastructure and tools. Don't forget that snow removal from paths should be at least as important as the roads.

Bike path improvement also leverages what is already a strong lobby, the recreational bicyclers. Throw in with them to multiply your effectiveness.

Mandate that gas, electric and water companies provide on monthly bills comparative measures of how much each household uses relative to other houses in their neighborhood and city. Also require them to publish on the web maps of neighborhoods with average usage figures. This helps to give people an awareness of how their energy usage compares to others, and it does so right where they have to look each month. For users that are over the average for their area, provide a 'you could a save X dollars each month by installing CF bulbs' indicator.

For those who still believe higher fuel taxes will reduce consumption: Will you please explain that given a tripling of fuel prices in the last 10 years has resulted in a increase in total fuel use then how in hell will a tax increase do what the price increase has failed to do?
Does anybody know the status of that anti-wind power bill that coal industry flunky WVA hillbilly has introduced is doing?
How about basing incentives for renewables on kwh actually delivered? A wind turbine in N Dakota will deliver more than the same turbine would in Alabama yet as I understand it each gets the same credit. As for biofuels an audit of how much fossil fuels used by the farmers and refiners needs to be subtracted before incentives are paid.
Any guess on how much fuel would not be used if we brought the troops home from everywhere? Except for Marines at embassies.

this is so simple, even an ignoramus like me can address it:
1) how do you know the increased gas cost hasn't helped? how many derivatives of the gas consumption vs. time do we need to compute before we can see the trend edging over? people drive bigger cars because they feel richer, they feel they can. too bad it's all been predicated on debt.
2) the message going out to the public is that the price spike is temporary. if that were changed, people would grumble but move to smaller cars.
3) wva has no lock on partisan pork. and you wouldn't be referring to a senior senator in such disparaging terms, would you?
4) the incentive for producing kwh is called the price. when it's high enough, the windmills will get built in the right place for the right reason. perhaps de-incentifying other nonstarters like corn ethanol is more important.
5) the energy bill is not a vehicle for examination of foreign policy. let's keep our eye on the ball.

The anti-wind power bill is not about pork. It is about protecting the interests of the coal lobby disguised as a wildlife protection measure. It calls for heavy fines on anyone who puts up a wind turbine without the permission of the Fish and Wildlife Service. This requirement applies only to wind turbines. An off the grid homeowner could be fined $1,000,000 for putting up a small turbine for his own use. Each kwh of wind power used is roughly 4 kwh thermal of coal not used.
Foreign policy and energy policy are intrinsicly intertwined. As many others have pointed out the Department of Defense is the world's biggest user of oil and most of that is for logistics. The Depatment of Defense's stated mission is the enforcement of the foreign policy of the USA. Current foreign policy is to secure the use of oil for transnational corporations which don't give a damn about the well being of the American people. Change foreign policy to eliminate the DoD's operations in over 100 other countries and an enormous amount of oil use ends with a savings to both taxpayers and consumers. (pardon the redundancy)

I base my faith in a tax curbing consumption on the laws of Supply and Demand."

The law of demand states that quantity demanded is inversely proportional to price; the higher the price of the product, the less the consumer will demand.

Many authors that I have read speculate that higher gas taxes imposed by European governments and Japan have led to markets dominated by smaller and more efficient vehicles.

The time to have imposed a higher gas tax was 25 years ago, before we became addicted to large vehicles and long commutes. But, we are where we are and I think that imposing a tax on fuel is far better than allowing business as usual to continue.

Don't become a Buddhist. The world doesn't need more Buddhists. Do practice compassion. The world does need more compassion. -- Dalai Lama

IMO, we should--at every opportunity--push Electrification of Transportation, for one primary reason. We know it works. Also, it will generate significant numbers of jobs in congressional districts.
Published on 19 Dec 2005 by Light Rail Now. Archived on 31 Mar 2006.
Electrification of transportation as a response to peaking of world oil production
by Alan S. Drake

The imminent peaking of global oil production and its potential impact is triggering concern at the highest levels of many countries, including the United States. Policymakers and the public in general are searching for timely and appropriate responses to "Peak Oil", and this paper highlights an under-appreciated option.

Streetcars 100 Years Ago

Cities Rediscover Streetcars

Here is something that might not be doable, but is absolutely necessary. While one must acknowledge the importance of political reality, one must keep in mind the necessity to point out reality, period.

Reality, period is that not only is oil peaking but we have less than ten years to do something serious about global warming. Nothing in any of these bills is taking global warming as seriously as it needs to be.

While a renewable energy standard of at least 20% by 2020 would be helpful, not even that will be of much use if our demand increases by 20% in the same time frame. We need to cut carbon, not simply try to stabilize its output.

All of the energy bills and amendments will be deemed a failure if a carbon cap is not included, starting within the next year and ratcheting it down each year until we reach at least an 80% reduction by 2050.

The cost of carbon emissions need to be driven up sufficiently high to actually cause changes in behavior that result in the use of low to no carbon fuels, including changes in consumption patterns. No, it is not realistic to be dictating residential patterns, for example, but these will be the inevitable result of a serious energy bill.

It will probably not hurt to raise CAFE standards unless, by doing so, it is concluded that congress is doing something serious about oil/energy consumption. Even if these new standards go into affect, are not game to death, and are not eliminated when things get rough for the domestic auto companies, their actual effect will be slow and minimal given the size of the existing fleet and the lack of anything in these energy bills to affect consumption -- now.

Perhaps I am being unrealistic, but then the energy bills we have on the plate are unrealistic. This must be pointed out in the hopes that the next congress can do better.

There will be those who state that a new CAFE standard of 35 mpg is better than nothing. When one is going over a cliff, slowing down one's descent right before one goes over the cliff is not really better than nothing. There is still that big splat at the bottom.

I'm sure that the Energy Bill contains many useful items and some version should be passed by congress. But, in my honest opinion, it would be more helpful if the post office, or military bases, or some other government fleet vehicle buyer would place an order for thousands of vehicles from Phoenix Motorcars.

The Phoenix battery electric vehicle contains remarkable technology invented by Altairnano. The technology has been verified by Aerovironment (which helped to develop the solar-powered GM Sunraycer and the all-electric GM Impact, and currently builds UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles, for the military). Please listen to this 17 minute interview for background:

Ramping up battery electric vehicle production will demonstrate to oil exporters that the US will not be dependent on them forever. At that point a high level constructive discussion with OPEC may be possible.

(disclosure: I am invested in Altairnano)

I would say that a requirement for the House Energy Bill is also a communications plan from Congress to the American people.

Yes, they need to step up and be parents and tell the spoiled kids that we're almost out of gas and it's time to get the bikes off the rack and start peddling.

There will be wailing, kicking, screaming and crying - but no other parent they elect can do a damn thing about it, so it's time for "Mom and Dad" to be adults.

It could be called the "Wake Up America Act".

Once they break the reality, they must follow it up with the promise of a bright future based on de-consumption - and retraining workforces to learn how to make the cool new things we will need in a Post-oil world.

Without a national address by a united congress breaking this news to Americans, the Energy Bill is like holding up a pillow to stop a speeding train.

Ok, I've looked at the Senate bill and it is a little different from what I thought.

On ethanol it requires 36 billion gallons by 2022. I was under the impression that 21 billion gallons was going to be cellulosic ethanol and hence that that portion would not be a threat to our food supply. However, what the bill actually requires is "advanced biofuel," which is defined in an interesting way. Anything other than ethanol from corn starch is "advanced biofuel." It seems that the Senate thinks "advanced biofuel" includes sugar cane ethanol, ethanol made from wheat or barley, and biodiesel from soybeans or rape. Obviously , that is a lie. Unless there is a huge breakthough in cellulosic ethanol, this bill is a massive threat to food supplies.

This is a quote from the renewable fuel standard section:


(A) IN GENERAL- The term `advanced biofuel' means fuel derived from renewable biomass other than corn starch.

(B) INCLUSIONS- The term `advanced biofuel' includes--

(i) ethanol derived from cellulose, hemicellulose, or lignin;

(ii) ethanol derived from sugar or starch, other than ethanol derived from corn starch;

(iii) ethanol derived from waste material, including crop residue, other vegetative waste material, animal waste, and food waste and yard waste;

(iv) diesel-equivalent fuel derived from renewable biomass, including vegetable oil and animal fat;

(v) biogas produced through the conversion of organic matter from renewable biomass; and

(vi) butanol or higher alcohols produced through the conversion of organic matter from renewable biomass.

(2) CELLULOSIC BIOMASS ETHANOL- The term `cellulosic biomass ethanol' means ethanol derived from any cellulose, hemicellulose, or lignin that is derived from renewable biomass.

(3) CONVENTIONAL BIOFUEL- The term `conventional biofuel' means ethanol derived from corn starch.

Here are the amounts required:

Applicable volume of renewable fuel

Calendar year:

(in billions of gallons):
















Applicable volume of advanced biofuels

Calendar year:

(in billions of gallons):








In addition to federal action, there is an immediate opportunity to change California energy policy. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is accepting comment on their recently released draft report: The Role of Land Use in Meeting California's Energy and Climate Change Goals.
The deadline for written comments is 5pm Friday, July 6. Further information is available at this link:
This is a very well written report that will help the public and policy makers understand the issues and the confusing network of organizations and agencies that are beginning to grapple with the challenges. While not discussed in any depth, peak oil is mentioned in reference to the actions of a few outside agencies including the Southern California Association of Governments.
TOD, keep up your great work. I read you daily.
Debbie Cook, Councilmember
City of Huntington Beach

In the Senate Finance Committee's "Energy Investment and Advancement Act of 2007" there is a "fossil free alcohol production tax credit" for small producers (less than 60 million gallons per year). Maybe it shouldn't just be for small producers? I haven't found this credit in the house bills yet but I haven't gotten to look at all of them.

The "alternative fuel vehicle refueling property credit" doesn't include charging stations for electric cars. HR 2776 extends the credit for non-hydrogen refueling property. I'm not sure if you could get electricity to be considered a fuel but it might be something to think about.

I think it would be helpful to have a guide to some of the bills.

HR.2773 Biofuels

Looks like the House is a lot smarter than the Senate. They are just proposing a few studies and R+D.

Should people from the Oildrum try to suggest a sensible biofuels scheme or is it smarter just to leave this thing dead?

HR.2774 Solar

Studies thermal energy storage and concentrating solar.

I think that if you want to move solar forward then you should just do what California did from the mid 70s to the mid 80s. The State offered subsidies for building wind and solar plants and made the private sector compete for them. This was a tremendously successful program which launched the modern wind industry and also made big strides in bringing down the cost of solar. California terminated the program in the mid-80s to save money because energy prices declined.

The Europeans continued the work on wind, but never bothered with solar because they don't have much sunlight.
The UK had a similar program (?Renewable Fuels Obligation) which has run since the early 90s and was also very sucessful.

I don't know if you could propose something like this as an ammendment?

California also offered a tax credit for solar water heaters. Residential water heating consumes 1.7% of all US energy use. Displacing electric water heating is particularly helpful.

HR.1933 Carbon Capture and Storage

R+D and demonstration projects.

Natural Resources Committee HR.2337

Undoes some provisions of 2005 Energy Act. Imposes rules and regulations on wind turbines to protect bird and bats. Surveys offshore areas for alternative energy resources. Establishes stategic solar reserves. Tries to find suitable locations for carbon capture and storage. Assesses ways to increase terrestrial sequestration of CO2 by changing land management.

I think the attempt to impose all those bird protection rules on wind turbines should be deleted. This is an attempt by a coal state guy to sabotage wind.

The one big thing missing from the legislation is a CAFE standard. I am concerned Dingel will block this.

The Europeans continued the work on wind, but never bothered with solar because they don't have much sunlight.

Good post, but I'm confused by this comment. Germany installed 635,000 kW of photovoltaics in 2005 (vs. 103,000 kW for the U.S.) largely due to incentives. At that time Germany had the largest installed base of PV solar. In Germany the feed-in tarrif (the amount the utility pays for excess power) is anywhere from 51 cents (U.S.) to 73 cents depending. Greece, France, Italy and Spain also have above-retail-price feed-in tarrifs (though much smaller kW of installations than Germany or the U.S.).

Within the U.S. it seems that only California has a comparible feed-in tarif (39 cents/kWh, 5 year contract). For comparison, "Solarbuzz" reports that PV systems in the U.S. install for about 21 cents per kWh for grid-tied industrial systems and 37 cents for residential off-grid (which includes the cost of batteries).

(ref. wikipedia- "Photovoltaics" and "PV financial incentives")

Biofuel from algae should be encouraged for use on farms. The existing technology is small scale and easily implemented on an individual farm. If the fuel is entirely consumed on the farm where it is grown, esterization processing is not needed - just change the jets on the farm tractors. Offer prizes and public aclaim to those who do the best job of converting to biofuel. Couple this with corn-to-ethanol which will be passed with or without our support. A farmer who uses biodeisel in the growing his corn for ethanol changes the fossil carbon balance of HIS ethanol as compared to other people's ethanol. The land for the algae ponds is probably already available on most farms. There are corners and gullies where it is inconvenient to grow corn. There are fundamental biological science reasons why algae are more productive than corn. In time, practical experience will drive a shift to more biodeisel and less ethanol in the farm output.

There probably is enough idle land in US to support an algae industry that would actually give us full 'energy independence', but don't push that idea. There are too many vested interests who are pushing other ideas, and not yet enough hard data to support this claim. As it stands now, the models require much higher oil prices to make biodeisel seem cost competative. Oil prices will get there, but this might give us a head start on dealing with that expected disaster.

Sorry, y'all. I have been traveling and haven't been able to provide much direction on this effort. This is actually very good stuff that you all are putting together.

I welcome suggestions on how to focus this effort. There's a lot here, perhaps if we each picked an area and just "went..."...I don't know.

For what it is worth, my post on the American Petroleum Institute's Energy IQ survey provides some pretty good insight into where API is coming from.

They are very much opposed to expanding biofuel, because of the infrastructure mess it would cause, and because they have serious concerns whether cellulosic ethanol can be scaled up in the timeframe available.

My "take" is that they very much would like to push expanding offshore drilling. They are also trying to sell the idea that imports for decades and decades are not a problem. (After all, most of our crude oil is from the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and the oil sands production is about to triple.) And of course, no extra taxes on the oil companies.