The House is poised to debate and pass an Energy Bill this week...get your thoughts in...UPDATED

UPDATE: Text of the bill H.R. 969 -- T.Udall-Platts RPS can be downloaded using the search engine on the House website: There is a deadline of 5pm 8/1 for Members to submit amendments to the Rules Committee for the Energy Bill. Any amendment filed MAY differ from the text of bills as introduced.

Amendments to the Energy bill have to be approved by the Rules Committee for floor votes (9 to 5 ratio of Speaker-appointed Democratic to Republican members). It will meet on Thursday. Links to approved amendments will be posted at the Rules Committee website. It can be accessed through the House home page at .

Oil Drum readers are encouraged to peruse recent coverage by CQ Today and EandENews (included below the fold) concerning the contents and status of elements in the bill and voice their reactions to, and analysis of, the legislation in this thread.

Under the fold are links to the actual text of the two bills - an energy bill and a tax bill. These two bills may well be combined into one bill by the House Rules Committee for debate and consideration this Friday.

I can promise you that there will be congressional staffers reading this thread. Therefore please keep it on point, off topic comments will be deleted. I have received emails from staffers who were impressed with our last effort, by the way.

Readers are also encouraged to inform their Members about their recommendations for voting for or against the bill. Two issues of continuing controversy and vote counting are raising CAFÉ standards and adopting a national Renewable Portfolio Standard. The Capitol Hill Switchboard is 202-225-3121--it is a good idea to know your Member's name or your zip code (all nine digits) when calling--Members only want to hear from their constituents.

Links to Bill Text

House Energy Bill, HR 3221 - text of the bill.

House Renewable Energy Tax Bill, HR 2776 - text

Other Notes

It is a matter of continuing debate and vote counting whether a CAFÉ amendment will be offered. The deadline for Members to submit amendments to the House Rules Committee is COB Wednesday, August 1.

Rep. Markey may offer a revised version of his CAFÉ bill, H.R. 1506. Rep. Baron Hill is planning to introduce an alternate CAFÉ amendment, HR 2927.

It remains to be seen if Rep. Tom Udall will introduce his bill, H.R. 969, or a variation of it to establish a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandate for generating electricity from renewable sources.

The Senate earlier approved a separate Energy bill, H.R. 6 as amended which is attached.

Articles for Your Information

July 31, 2007 - 1:45 p.m.

Deal Clears Way For Friday House Vote on Energy Package by Jeff Tollefson, CQ Staff

House leaders have brokered a compromise with energy-state Democrats on a few key provisions of a broad energy package, paving the way for a potential floor vote Friday.

The new energy package (HR 3221) is an amalgam of energy bills produced by 11 committees that Democrats say would steer the nation in a new direction on energy policy, increasing efficiency, spurring research and investment in new technologies, and better regulating the oil and gas industry.

Leadership aides say the 786-page bill will come to the floor Friday, along with a $16 billion tax package (HR 2776) produced by the Ways and Means Committee. The bills will be joined in a single rule Thursday but debated and voted on separately on the floor, according to a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Responding to pressure from Democrats representing energy-producing states, Pelosi and Natural Resources Chairman Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., D-Calif., agreed to drop or amend several provisions from a bill (HR 2337) Rahall's panel approved June 13. That measure, as approved by Natural Resources, would tighten environmental regulations for new energy projects, address alternative fuels development and energy efficiency, greenhouse gas capture and storage, the impact of climate change on fish and wildlife, and other topics.

With those negotiations settled, the biggest remaining issues are potential amendments to set new fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and a federal mandate for renewable electricity. Advocates of the "renewable portfolio standard" expressed confidence in a strong vote, although the outcome of a potential amendment on fuel efficiency standards remains uncertain.

The new bill drops language that would have all but ended the "royalty in kind" program, which allows companies to pay their royalties in oil and gas rather than cash. The bill also drops language eliminating deadlines for implementing a federal program established in the 2005 energy law (PL 109-58) to designate national energy corridors in an effort to expedite construction of electric transmission lines.

The Bureau of Land Management would have 45 days to process oil and gas drilling permits, instead of 90 days under the previous language; the 2005 law set a 30-day deadline as part of a broader effort to hasten production on federal lands.

The changes are unlikely to satisfy Republicans or the oil and gas industry - and possibly some Democrats - who have said the bill would hamper domestic production. But supporters say the revised bill represents a workable compromise.

Although he still supports the original provisions, Rahall said the new version would help ensure "responsible and honest management" of federal oil and gas resources.

"Any time you compile such a far-reaching piece of legislation, compromises are an inherent part of the process," he said.

Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat who led the negotiations, said the compromise was a significant step forward, but he added that at least four or five of the 25 or so energy-state Democrats he has been talking to plan to vote against the bill anyway.

Tax Bill Still Targeted

Although Pelosi has so far resisted any concessions on the tax package, Green said she did agree to hold a separate vote on the package, allowing members of his group who generally oppose the tax package to vote for the energy bill but against the tax provisions.

"As long as we keep the tax title separate, I think we can pass the underlying legislation," he said. "People say the energy industry is making all kinds of money and they are, but if you keep hitting them with taxes . . . they are not going to be able to reinvest to make sure that we can get energy."

Green said there might yet be hope for a compromise, pointing out that Pelosi has called for another meeting with the group.

A Democratic leadership aide countered Green's assessment of the negotiations over the tax provisions, saying a separate vote was always planned on the tax package.

The bill also includes language intended to recoup billions of dollars in royalties being lost on faulty leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The leases suspended royalties in the late 1990s to spur production when prices were low, but a technical error has allowed many companies to continue producing oil and gas without paying royalties despite a huge increase in prices over the past few years.

The bill would require companies either to renegotiate their leases or to pay a new conservation fee if they want to bid on future leases. Several versions of this language have appeared in various bills in both chambers over the past two years, including the farm bill (HR 2419) passed last week and the energy bill passed by the House in January (HR 6).

Democrats also added language on behalf of Colorado Democrats that would block surface occupancy for potential drilling operations on the Roan Plateau in Colorado.

and this from E&ENews

1. ENERGY POLICY: No 'green light' from Pelosi on CAFE amendment just yet (07/31/2007)
Alex Kaplun, E&ENews PM reporter

House Democratic leaders appear unlikely to press for a vote on vehicle fuel efficiency this week, even as they refuse to close the door on other members who might pursue such a move on their own.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters this afternoon no lawmaker has informed her of an intention to offer a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) amendment to the energy bill later this week.

"I am not aware of any intention to bring up such legislation," Pelosi said. "I read about that in the paper and that people would like to see certain things happen, but as to whether [lawmakers] would bring their amendments to the Rules Committee, I am not aware of that at this time."

The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to determine which amendments it will allow to the energy package. The underlying bill is expected on the floor Friday.

When pressed by reporters on whether she would back CAFE or renewable portfolio standard amendments, Pelosi responded that she has no intention of preventing members from offering amendments to the bill.

"I have not prohibited anyone from bringing a CAFE standard or an electrical standard amendments to the floor," she said. "They may bring them. They may not. I haven't seen them come forward yet."

She later added, "I am not prohibiting it from happening, the Rules Committee will work its will, but they cannot act on an amendment that has not been proposed."

While Pelosi has said she supports boosting CAFE to 35 miles per gallon, several lobbyists think she has not been personally involved in whipping votes for that legislation, leaving that up to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and his allies.

A spokeswoman for Markey said this afternoon the lawmaker has still not made a decision on whether he will ask the Rules Committee to allow a vote on his amendment that would boost CAFE to 35 mpg by 2019.

"The determination [on whether to offer the amendment] is what we think is going to be neccessary to get that strong standard in the final bill," said Markey spokeswoman Jessica Schafer. "We are going to continue to work with the speaker to put together the strategy that ensures that the final bill is going to get a CAFE standard."

Environmental groups are still trying to build support for the 35 mpg mandate, and several have said in recent days that Markey and his supporters are waiting for a green light from Pelosi before deciding whether to offer the bill.

"Markey isn't stupid and neither is [Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John] Dingell. They're not going to offer their amendment until they get a signal that she will allow a vote on the amendment," said one environmentalist this afternoon.

Dingell (D-Mich.) has thrown his support behind a competing CAFE proposal offered by Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that would set a CAFE standard of no less than 32 mpg and no greater than 35 mpg by 2022.

An aide for Hill said today the congressman intends to ask the Rules Committee to allow a vote on his legislation.

For his part, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) took a more definitive stance than Pelosi, telling reporters that he did not expect CAFE to be part of the House bill, though he maintained that it could emerge out of a conference with the Senate.

"I think you are going to see the energy package that was announced is the energy package we will try to pass," Hoyer said.

As little as I like politics, this is ultimately why we spend time on this site, ciphering and deciphering, debating and discovering - so that we can impact policy, micro or macro.

As I discussed in my recent post, saving energy via strong CAFE standards, lower speed limits, etc. is just like having a new oil find, especially domestically - when we are worried about energy security.

The bill is 800 odd pages long, which shows me how distanced real people are from real policy - how to accessibly persuade our congress to take meaningful changes in bite sized palatable enough increments is a tall task - especially when our constituents are still largely of the mindset that low prices and growth are our ordained right.

I hope Speaker Pelosi and other courageous public representatives can put forward as aggressive changes to the Energy Policy act as possible.

Regarding Rep Udalls potential Renewable Portfolio Standard for electricity, we CAN actually get electricity from renewables - the other 'Renewable' policy on the books is very much a misnomer - via the EPA, the Renewable Fuel Standard is anything but. Its defined as:

A renewable fuel is defined in the Energy Policy Act as a motor vehicle fuel that is produced from plant or animal products or wastes, as opposed to fossil fuel sources. Renewable fuels include ethanol, biodiesel and other motor vehicle fuels made from renewable sources.

We all know that corn ethanol, currently the 'renewable' fuel of choice, is made entirely with fossil fuel inputs, with the exception of the sun growing the corn. A tiny energy gain remains after accounting for: natural gas that provides the fertilizer, diesel fuels for the tractors and farm machinery, natural gas and coal for steam the solution and gasoline that distributes the fuel. Almost entirely fossil fuel but it's termed 'renewable' because plant matter is involved. I can't seem to upload Rep Udall's proposed bill but one hopes this addresses this issue on the electricity front. Tidal, wind, solar, batteries etc all are much more renewable than biofuels, and deserve to be part of this bill. (If anyone can find link to Udalls HR 969 amendment - if anyone has a link please post it)

CAFE may be too little too late by standards of people familiar with whats ahead, but this is the process. Baby steps can make a difference. With the credit swoon upon us, policymakers will be wont to be too aggressive on measures hurting the economy. But the amendment boosting CAFE to 35 by SOONER than 2019 will get those bright minds in Michigan and Silicon Valley working hard before the energy crisis doesn't offer us any time.

For those who aren't afraid to step out of the box a bit, try calling your congressional rep tomorrow and share your information, even if you only get a staffer. They are quite tuned in.

We all know, from the June 20 UNEP/SEFI report ( so on, that renewables (not bioethanol) are a rapidly growing market. Renewable Portfolio Standards at the state level in the US have encouraged an accelerating flow of investment into wind, wave, solar, geothermal and other technologies. The EU countries are also big champions of renewables, and enjoy a continent-wide market to scale up technologies, seek solutions to intermittent supply problems (eg, via storing wind-generated energy), and so on. The US has been able to ignore the Bush-Cheney fossil-neck at the federal level, because California and other technologically advanced states have tough standards that are working (not perfectly, but that's another matter).

The question is whether to continue as is, betting on the advanced states and letting the laggards (ie, the South) be, or federalize some minimal target that Bush-Cheney and those who side with them will accept.

One potent economic reason for the US, at the federal level, to enact an RPS is that the Japanese are beginning to catch on. Sunday's electoral thrashing of the long-ruling Liberal Democrats by the Democratic Party of Japan included a proposal by the latter for 10% of electricity to be generated via renewables by 2020. This isn't a lot, but beats the LDP's target of 1.63% by 2014. The LDP is in thrall to the accident-prone nuclear industry (who are opportunistic peak-oilers, by the way) as well as unimaginative business leaders who see RPS as vaguely socialist. Their kind of thinking has seen Japan lose its lead in solar, do zip on geothermal (in spite of being so impressively tectonic), and otherwise squander a host of green-tech opportunities (domestically as well as overseas) stemming from the energy-environmental crisis.

Japan is a unitary state, so doesn't have RPS at the local level. When it does get a target at the central-state level, America will have another potent competitor. You people have already lost leadership in the car industry to the Japanese, so maybe you want to get serious on renewables.

Re: We all know that corn made entirely from fossil fuel inputs with exception of the sun growing the corn.

This is the crux of the error's being made here at TOD. How is it that fossil fuel is only a small fraction of the costs for me to produce corn as compared to land, seed and labor and surely is a small fraction of the cost for ethanol producers compared to the purchased corn, labor, plant, finance and management costs? Yet here at TOD this all gets ignored and changed into "ethanol is made entirely from fossil fuel inputs" with the sun's inputs almost dismissed. The bias is breathtaking.

The whole point of ethanol is not that there is a big energy gain but that liquid transport fuel (expensive) is made from corn and mostly natural gas which are cheap. Making something expensive out of something cheaper is the whole idea behind production. This is the fallacy behind EROEI which is a near religion at TOD. I have posted on this before, but maybe I should use westexas's technique and repeat the same idea over and over again. At least he seems to get somewhere repeating stuff. Or maybe his ideas are better. The idea that forms of energy can be changed from the less usable with the current infrastructure to the more usable seams to me to be dismissed here. Why? Energy is not finite. Fossil fuels are finite. A new supply of energy arrives from the sun every day. Transforming that energy into liquid transport fuel is a valid strategy for mitigating peak oil. Those that only want conservation (usually described in mandatory terms) should do the conserving. Go ahead do it. Those who can add to the supply of liquid transport fuel should do if they can.
Trying to stop those who are attempting to mitigate peal oil because their method doesn't suit the EROEI religion is a dead end. If you want conservation, fight for it and do it. I have no problem with that.

Corn ethanol have some problems even if you consider them just a energy conversion. Besides, converting natural gas and oil into ethanol isn't that usefull, is it? Both can be used for transportation near the same way.

But your main problem is that you didn't say where the energy that we transform into ethanol comes from. That is the bigest problem, not how to make liquid fuels.

"How is it that fossil fuel is only a small fraction of the costs for me to produce corn as compared to land, seed and labor and surely is a small fraction of the cost for ethanol producers compared to the purchased corn, labor, plant, finance and management costs?"

One, because Fossil fuels are artificially cheap here, so your measurement of ROI based on Dollar Inputs is skewed to Oil and NG's clear advantage.

Two, 'Surely a small fraction of the cost for ethanol producers' - are you sure? The energy required for processing, drying and refining that corn into ethanol is where the greatest energy inputs are required, right?

Still, your argument that this is simply creating a value-added product is my main concern. While we do need Transport Liquids, this uses gas and diesel to produce an LTF that is un-pipable, subject to water contamination, and complicates our Transp fuel reliance towards products that hinge on Harvest Times, Weather and Irrigation conditions, and compete with crop space (and aquifer reserves) for food crops. Every expansion of this industry will make that competition more intense, and I don't see how it would be a healthy contest for the country.

ps, is the .50 subsidy on Ethanol basically providing the profit-margin that makes this seem like a value-added product?


Ethanol from corn has huge problems. Read my article:

Corn-Based Ethanol: Is This a Solution?

This is the crux of the error's being made here at TOD. How is it that fossil fuel is only a small fraction of the costs for me to produce corn as compared to land, seed and labor and surely is a small fraction of the cost for ethanol producers compared to the purchased corn, labor, plant, finance and management costs? Yet here at TOD this all gets ignored and changed into "ethanol is made entirely from fossil fuel inputs" with the sun's inputs almost dismissed. The bias is breathtaking.

1) your fertilizer costs might be in units of fossil fuel
2) corn isn't ethanol, and turning it into ethanol requires substantial additional energy, most of which is fossil fueled.

What is the power and transportation costs for an ethanol plant?

Practical, I won't sidetrack this thread with arguments on EROI and ethanol other than to say I agree with you that EROI is not a panacea and said as much in my recent post. More important than the energy return of an alternative technology is the energy return of what its replacing, which gets back to demand, CAFE, speed limit, carpooling, electric train arguments, etc.

Also, my reply to you there, shows that ethanol DOES use a huge amount of non-renewable inputs. Natural gas this summer is cheap but the forward markets 2009 and beyond are making all time highs this week. If you have to pay triple for seed and fertilizer in a few years, how good of idea will ethanol be? Or what if you can't buy fertilizer at all?

By developing low energy gain renewable energy that has a majority component that is fossil, we are squandering opportunities using existing fossil reserves to develop high energy gain renewable systems. This is why ethanol is a bad idea. We will switch from one perceived bottleneck (oil) to another one (natural gas, or greenhouse gas emissions from more coal). If all the energy inputs (and NON-ENERGY inputs, like soil and water), were abundant, then I totally agree that the energy return of ethanol wouldn't be as relevant. But thats not the case with bio-ethanol.

I will put up a separate post on this issue in the next week or so and we can debate this until we come to some agreement, if possible.

This is the fallacy behind EROEI which is a near religion at TOD.

It's a "near religion" because it is the crux of the biscuit. If I spend $200 to get to my job where I earn $200 per day, I have nothing at the end of the day. Ethanol is not much better than this scenario.

Robert posted an excellent look at the "solar" gain of ethanol here

Trying to stop those who are attempting to mitigate peal oil because their method doesn't suit the EROEI religion is a dead end.

It's not that the method doesn't suit a "religion", it's that it Just. Doesn't. Work. in any meaningful way for mitigation of oil. There have been countless computations on what the potential mitigation is, and has been shown countless times that it is a drop in the bucket. I'd love to see anything that shows otherwise.

If I spend $200 to get to my job where I earn $200 per day, I have nothing at the end of the day.

Ahhh, but the Tax man made something.

I am a constituent of Rep Jack Wamp, Tennessee 3rd Congressional district, who is a co-chair of the House Renewable and Energy Efficiency Caucus. While I disagree with him on many(if not most) things, I have met him on several occasions when he has had 'listening' sessions for voters in his district and I believe that he is sincere in trying to do what is best for his district. The problem becomes one of convincing him of the best path forward. I just sent him an email:

Rep Wamp supports HR 2927 as an alternative to HR 1506. HR 2937 relaxes the CAFÉ standards of HR 1506. Now Hamiliton County which is central to Rep Wamp’s District has an air quality attainment problem. Recently emissions testing was instituted for all cars licensed in Hamilton County. However about half the work force in Chattanooga drives in from surrounding counties many of which are in Georgia and Alabama. Also thousands of trucks pass thru Chattanooga on the Interstates every day. The emissions testing does not address these vehicles, but tougher CAFÉ standards would. Hamiliton County is also the headquarters of two major trucking firms. I am sure that they prefer HR 2927 which raises the CAFE standard on trucks to 32 mpg by 2022 as opposed to HR 1506 which raises the CAFE standard to 35 mpg by 2018. But should their preferences be put above the health and well being of the residents of the county?
However I understand the politics of the situation and even HR 2927 is preferable to having no CAFÉ standards in the Energy Bill at all.

Thanks for bringing this up, PG. It's been coming up this week, and I'm in a quandary..

I got emails from MoveOn and Greenpeace about energy legislation over the last couple days, but didn't get any specifics with their messages vying for us to call and advocate or oppose more 'mystery amendments'..

Udall's HR 969, with the 20% renewable standard mandate for utilities was what MoveOn wanted me to cheer for, but I want to hear what TOD has to say. I don't feel that this is as clear or effective a policy direction as the oft-touted 'carbon tax'.

I'm doing some searches of past TOD discussions, but to just lay it out there, what are the Pros/Cons with a carbon tax.. appreciating already that 'Political Feasibility' might be all that's required to kill it. But is it a good idea? What are your other proposals for useful energy-policy riders that could/should carry us in the right direction? X-prizes for Tide and Wave solutions? Better Batteries? For Cities/States that reach new transit-improvement goals akin to Alan Drake's improvements possible with Electric Rail Freight, etc. ?

Bob Fiske

We had a lot of discussions over a year ago about a) whether or not a gas tax was a good idea, and b) whether or not it is a regressive tax (i.e., it hurts the poor more than the rich). Political feasibility aside, public opinion and logic is on the side of a gas tax if you believe the world is at plateau.

Of course, they don't all know this yet, unless you tell them to read theoildrum and the rest of the po blogosphere.

b) whether or not it is a regressive tax (i.e., it hurts the poor more than the rich).

Consumption taxes are a lot less regressive than a dead planet.

Since this is discussion of the energy bill, I agree that a fuel tax should be considered to some degree, but better handled at the state level for exemptions and rebates for farming, etc, since most states already have a system for that. However, as consumption taxes go, it is regressive. After considering how it hurts the poor, then perhaps they can start considering The Fair Tax, which prebates the poor end amount to everyone so that low consumers don't pay any tax. To do this with the energy tax would be cumbersome and invasive. To do it on a consumption-wide basis means you only need an address or a bank account and a name, and since everyone gets the same amount, there is no need for major monitoring systems.
After all, oil is being consumed by all consumption, not just transportation. Transport costs get transferred to the end products anyway, so why not just tax the end products and reduce overall demand for CWDN ('stuff' we don't need)?

Sorry for the ramble.

It's less and less obvious to me that consumption taxes affect the poor more than the wealthy. So they drive the poor into an underground economy. Or they barter time for vegetables, work in a community garden or swap. Those are options not really open to the wealthy. [They pay their lawyers or politicians for tax breaks instead.]

Another way to think about that is how much can be swapped and bartered or self-produced vs how much must be purchased in coin-of-the-realm. That gets you into the "Two Income Trap" where women earning a wage find themselves worse off than some of those not earning a wage but home-producing otherwise.

If people can get off the consumption treadmill, then the consumption tax is less of an issue. The caveat, though, is that it becomes a "sin" tax; we need to encourage what we do not want to generate revenue.

cfm in Gray, ME

So what is the upshot on 'Sin taxes'? Are they less effective because the government becomes dependent on the revenues, and may be less vigilant in eradicating the 'sin'? ( I guess that's what you were saying there.. it took me a second to unravel it) The heavy taxing on cigarettes, for example. Is it worth it? Is it also just taking cruel advantage of Addiction, instead of working to cure it? (Whether for Nicotiene or Gasotiene)

What about a scaled tax reward system for Utilities that are investing in distributed RE technologies?

Do we want better Gov't programs for helping to create and enhance the development of US-owned RE businesses?

I'm not really policy Savvy, (I don't think I can even SPELL savvy!) but then again, some of the policies I hear coming out of DC convince me I'm not that far behind the Senate, either way! So can you see past programs that have really been good examples of the kind of public planning that we could model current efforts on?

Bob Fiske

If people can get off the consumption treadmill, then the consumption tax is less of an issue. The caveat, though, is that it becomes a "sin" tax; we need to encourage what we do not want to generate revenue.

I'm sorry if this may digress, but this issue needs to be fleshed out more in discussions.

High parking fees are a "sin" tax on having too many cars in the city, set at a 'price point' which maintains flow of revenue.
What about raising someone's insurance premiums just enough to keep them as a customer, but not enough to lose the income?
We do this stuff all the time. We just have to apply it properly from the long-term picture of humans as a species.
Conservatives get scared when you start reducing their profit revenue POTENTIAL, and Liberals get scared if you reduce the potential of future government revenue. It's time we reduced it all and be conservative about how much government we really need in the future. Jack up taxes until people actually stop doing stupid things, then get rid of the overhead we created to WATCH them do stupid things instead of STOPPING them from doing stupid things.

What are our grandchildren getting for all the oil we are burning up? If we don't make ourselves pay the true costs, THEY will simply have to pay much more in the long run.
Changing some economic paradigms now is better than trying to survive on a planet full of plastic McDonald's toys and Roundup-flavored Cheez Doodles.

If the world is at plateau, logic dictates conservation not taxation.
Not one pro tax argument on this site has clearly shown demand destruction from price increases, tax based or otherwise.
IF the House is serious about reducing fossil fuel consumption pass the bill with the strictest CAFE standards, limit the speed to 100kph on the Interstates, mandate higher efficiencies from household appliances and extend fuel efficiency ratings to personal watercraft, motorcycles and gasoline powered yard machines etc..

Not one pro tax argument on this site has clearly shown demand destruction from price increases, tax based or otherwise.

"Price point" and education/public buy-in are important. People don't stop speeding until the price of a ticket gets high enough. Until that point is reached, there is no deterrence, only revenue generation for local government. If the price is raised too much, the problem becomes one where you can't afford to pay for the police you no longer need when people stop speeding. It's a matter of whether we are going to give ourselves enough credit that once we learn to behave, we won't need the government constantly around to tell us how to behave. Imagine that. It used to be called "growing up".

Another thing, a biggie too.
Establish fuel economy standards for commercial vehicles as well.
Thanks musashi!

To drop in one set arguments for Carbon Tax from April:

"1. You need a carbon tax, not just a gas tax. The carbon tax base is large enough to off-set the payroll tax cuts that have to come unless you want a working-middle-class revolution or worse (ballets, bullets or begging...)

The carbon tax punishes coal for electricity on an equal CO2
impact basis with other fuels/processes. If, as you propose, you give other tax relief to rail that electrifies, rail can handle the carbon tax and will feel the same pressures as others to economize (design of rail cars to handle more riders on a user-friendly basis, etc.)

A carbon tax will likely hit the airlines more than what you have on the table. E.g., cross-country flights will start re-fueling mid-country for further fuel efficiency, carriers will increase pressure on the builders to make more efficient planes and engines, and more short-haul flights will be cut due to electric ground transport competition.

2. The national economy that exploded on the back of cheap oil after WWII scattered family members to the four winds.

As a partial remedy for raising the cost of air travel, provide regulatory and financial incentives to expand, and enhance the quality of, video telephone and video-conferencing. Video can make families stay connected with less travel.

3. Ensure that the expanded electric grid can be fully responsive to both supply- and demand-side load management. Provide incentives (regs + $$) for residential and commercial user-friendly real-time demand management of their electricity use. Implement IPv6 and put the grid on the Web. Don't overlook solar.

Short versions:
Stress conservation over everything else (CAFE, speed limits, mass transit, no tax breaks for any vehicles that aren't buses or trains).
"A penny saved is a barrel of oil" or something like that.

Ethanol or cheap food; make the choice and if it is for ethanol, then make sure the high price for food is paid to organic farms for conserving energy and creating jobs (even if it is only for one small farmer).

You can't go very wrong with wind and solar power.

You CAN go very wrong with nuclear power.

Electrification: building infrastructure will put the housing bubble unemployed back to work in their home towns.

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

This is NOT "your grandfather's nuclear power".
Try to give the nukers a teensy weensy break, please.
Nukes have come a long long way.

You still can go wrong with it.

Not to say that it shouldn't be done, just that one must be carefull.

Nukes have come a long long way.

Sure, lots of things have created 'safety' systems and double safety systems with dead man switches, etc. (Remember the Simpson's episode when he uses the drinking bird toy to keep hitting the dead man key?)
As Douglas Adams put it, "Any engineer that thinks he can design something to be completely foolproof has never met a complete fool."
I'm a great fan of nuclear power because I hate people. More seriously, though, I really am a fan of clean nuclear power that doesn't contaminate the vessels it is produced in and doesn't require thousands of years of police-state storage. Got any of that handy? Got any police-states that have lasted for thousands of years?

Nuclear power needs to be rethought and restarted from square one. If you have to refine it with massive quantities of fluoride, it isn't sustainable or safe. If it takes 10 years to build a power plant, it isn't a practical source of power.

Something like this I can get behind with wholehearted enthusiasm, but nuclear plants built with brute force and concrete on volcanic, earthquake-prone islands isn't what my grandfather would have built, no. His energy usage was solar, grown in fields and value-added through horses, which also grew in fields.

Technology is great, as long as it provides a sustainable Net Creativity to the complete community (including the environment). If it only provides a short-term economic profit at the cost of long-term cleanup by Somebody Else, then it's time to think about living without it and powering down.

You can't go very wrong with wind and solar power.

You CAN go very wrong with nuclear power.

Maybe, but you can't go very far with just wind and solar power,

and in the real world,

no nukes + wind and solar == tons more coal.

And that is going to be so much very very wronger.

I'll put on my cynical scientist hat---by 2070 or so GW will probably be bad enough that it would be "worth" trading off a whole Chernobyl every few years. (how much earth will GW make uninhabitable?) Of course a new Chernobyl is very unlikely to happen with new nukes.

I want as much solar and wind as is feasible---and nukes too.

Maybe, but you can't go very far with just wind and solar power,

Most of the traveling around that people are doing right now is simply to go places they don't really need to go, or going there by using 4000 lbs of steel and cupholders to transport 120 lbs of flesh-tone seat cover.

Fear of Slowing The Economy is killing us. How much data do we really need to realize that if we don't come up with a Descent Plan, Nature is going to do it for us?

Is radioactive food better than no food at all (Let's ask the Iraqis)? Is a damaged genetic pool going to be a sustainable life form? Maybe we'll invent a Star Trek Hypo spray that cures radiation sickness.

...and most of the places we go are within a distance to allow electrical power for propulsion.

Fact: An internal combustion engine wastes 75% of the energy fed to it (25% efficiency). 75% flushed down the toilet! Electric motors with batteries are about 88% efficient. Switch to electricity and you've immediatey cut your energy requirements by better than 2/3rds.

Fact: the vast infrastructure required to deliver electricity as the end-user product already exists.

Fact: Electricity can be produced by many different sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and yes, nuclear. Talk about "flex-fuel". Feed the grid with what works best, transparent to the end-user.

Fact: Advances are required for battery storage and/or recharge times to make electricity a viable and sellable sole energy source for long distance travel. The technology exists today for plug-in hybrids, that use an ICE only when battery power is sufficiently depleted.

Fact: the technology exists today to use electricity for the energy required for the majority of round trips taken in vehicles.

This is where our focus needs to be: Change the end-use energy product to electricity, and invest in improving all of the upstream components.

From page 99

•HR 2776 RH
2 (a) STUDY.—The Secretary of the Treasury, in con3
sultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary
4 of Energy, and the Administrator of the Environmental
5 Protection Agency, shall enter into an agreement with the
6 National Academy of Sciences to produce an analysis of
7 current scientific findings to determine—
8 (1) current biofuels production, as well as projec9
tions for future production,
10 (2) the maximum amount of biofuels production
11 capable on United States farmland,
12 (3) the domestic effects of a dramatic increase in
13 biofuels productin on, for example—
14 (A) the price of fuel,
15 (B) the price of land in rural and suburban
16 communities,
17 (C) crop acreage and other land use,
18 (D) the environment, due to changes in crop
19 acreage, fertilizer use, runoff, water use, emis20
sions from vehicles utilizing biofuels, and other
21 factors,
22 (E) the price of feed,
23 (F) the selling price of grain crops,
24 (G) exports and imports of grains,
25 (H) taxpayers, through cost or savings to
26 commodity crop payments, and
VerDate Aug 31 2005 01:39 Jun 28, 2007 Jkt 059200 PO 00000 Frm 00099 Fmt 6652 Sfmt 6203 E:\BILLS\H2776.RH H2776 cnoel on PRODPC60 with BILLS
•HR 2776 RH
1 (I) the expansion of refinery capacity,
2 (4) the ability to convert corn ethanol plants for
3 other uses, such as cellulosic ethanol or biodiesel,
4 (5) a comparative analysis of corn ethanol
5 versus other biofuels and renewable energy sources,
6 considering cost, energy output, and ease of imple7
mentation, and
8 (6) the need for additional scientific inquiry,
9 and specific areas of interest for future research.
10 (b) REPORT.—The National Academy of Sciences shall
11 submit an initial report of the findings of the report re12
quired under subsection (a) to the Congress not later than
13 3 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, and
14 a final report not later than 6 months after such date of
15 enactment.

This is an excellent idea - National Academy will give the straight skinny, presumably with some scientists using a systems approach to look at environmental externalities of scaling biofuels.

I would add that this request should include a net energy analysis - not so much to debate whether corn and cellulosic ethanol are net energy losers or winners compared to other biofuels, but looking at how dramatic an energy loss they have compared to the average energy gain we currently get from the imported/domestic petroleum energy gain. If we scale something that has a tiny energy gain, that has to be accompanied by demand destruction (or efficiency) in other areas.

So, 7) a net energy analysis, to determine what kind of economic and social repercussions arise from replacing high energy gain petroleum with low energy gain biofuels...Or some such.

This has precedence in the 1970s -

"The Congress of the United States stipulated in the Federal Non-Nuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 1974, that before giving support to research on new energy-supply technologies, “the potential for production of net energy by the proposed technology at the stage of commercial application shall be analyzed and considered in evaluating proposals.” Source- Spreng "Net Energy Analysis" Oak Ridge Associates

I would add another amendment to this section:

17. An analysis of shortfall risk.

We can't compare pulling oil out of the ground with an annual crop. There are vagaries of drought, floods, etc. that can and do dramatically impact supply of grain based fuel inputs. Oil depletes, but roughly within a predictable band. If a certain % of our annual energy is produced from biomass/biofuels, we have to consider standard deviation and shortfall risk when making the rules. One need look no further than the dust bowls of the 1930s, when, if one digs, one can find quotes from the government 'soil is our one inexhaustible resource', which turned out not to be the case.

Heck - a MUCH better idea is to expand section 402 to be an overall 'second opinion' of the National Petroleum Council report. Secretary Bodman could repeat the request to analyze the status of petroleum resources, societal impacts, etc. from the National Academy of Sciences, which also could have been done 2 years ago... addended note: the National Research Council's reports are created by panels that can be loaded with particular interests--and have been. So, oversight of the NAS panel appointments is needed. No one should assume that because the NRC is an arm of the NAS that the reports will be objective science, though many, if not most, are.

This certainly has been delayed. I was asked to be a reviewer of this report, and accepted. Net energy analysis, soil and water impacts, and flow analysis are areas I plan to be particularly critical about.

if you are so's a reddit link.

RE: HR 2776

A 50 cent subsidy for cellulosic ethanol production is not likely to bring much ethanol into the market anytime soon. The technology is immature as enzymes used in the process were expensive.

Severe food shortages might occur if the house mandates increased grain ethanol usage for clean air or renewable objectives.

Hydroelectric and geothermal power might be renewable options for areas like Alaska or Yellowstone.

The credits for plug-in hybrids should reduce reliance on foreign oil imports. The electrical infrastructure is limited and efforts for a rapid switch from gasoline to plug-in hybrids might produce foreseeable consequences including brownouts, blackouts, and a spike in electrical rates.

"The electrical infrastructure is limited and efforts for a rapid switch from gasoline to plug-in hybrids might produce foreseeable consequences including brownouts, blackouts, and a spike in electrical rates."

Not if charging is done at night, or only during the day when the grid isn't stressed.

It will be very, very important to develop ways to encourage proper charging, including time of day pricing and other elements of a "smart grid".

This really shouldn't be that difficult to do. If the electronic locks on my present car can be unlocked remotely there is no reason why plug-in hybrids when they are built could not contain an override on their grid connection that could be operated remotely by the utility (computers) when necessary during during high grid usage. Utilities already do interuptable power to certain commercial customers when usage is high.

Professor Goose,

The Reddit story has already been deleted. I'm offended, because this is the best way for citizens to actually provide input for legislation that vitally effects the United States and the world.
Bob Ebersole

I went to the reddit link Matt Savinar posted last week.
If that dialogue is typical of the people who frequent that site then forget it. Our goose is already cooked.
(edit)No slam intended PG.

The problem with renewable portfolio standards and, I suspect, this one, is that legislators and others often lost sight of what we are trying to accomplish by such standards. Being renewable, however defined, is not sufficient. If something is considered "renewable" like ethanol, but yet has a minimal renewable component, if any, then the purpose of such standards is not being met.

The goal is, or should be, to cut fossil fuels. To include vegetable matter, just because it includes a non fossil fuel component in the form of the sun is misleading and will cause us to end up with a future where we haven't significantly cut fossil fuels and certainly not by 20% or whatever standard may be finally passed.

We don't simply need renewable portfolio standards, we need renewable standards that are also low or not carbon standards. Ethanol is not really a low or no carbon approach. A standard that includes this fuel or any other fuel which requires significant carbon inputs is misleading at best and an extreme disservice to those who will still be alive when the really nasty effects of global warming and peak oil take place.

I wrote Rep. Udall on this issue once before and received a reply which did not really address my concerns. He simply stated he favored a renewable standard without addressing the subtleties I brought up then and bring up now. This is one of the pitfalls, of course, and canned responses. For all I know, a computer may have selected the predetermined response that I received.

A renewable future which includes signicant amounts of biomass is neither really renewable or low/no carbon. No doubt it goes well when one is running for reelection, especially in the farm states, but it does very little to honestly address the problem.

CAFE, even if passed, is not good enough. What do we do with all the carbon emitted by existing vehicles in the mean time. Signicant gas taxes and/or carbon taxes are required; with various incentives like feebates and incentives to get big co2 emitters off the road. We also need a comphrehensive legislative proposal to move us to a society that is not so vehicle dependent in the first place. Increases in population alone will rule out any savings in co2 that accrue from CAFE standards, however meaningful.

Very well said. You have my vote.

I second Nate's comment, and in addition...
Where's that 55 mph speed limit? IMHO, the easiest, cheapest, quickest (albeit limited) way to conserve....and yet, where is it? Is it because Congress really doesn't perceive the dimensions of the problem? Because our legislators might have to explain exactly why Americans have to drive slower (or less) without a scapegoat or "the market demands it" explanation? Because there's no "constituency" for it (i.e., no moneyed interests, etc.)? Drive a little slower--what could that hurt? Just curious...

I can only find the older 1997 graph

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Anyway, one can see the trend. IMHO 55 works for older cars.

My '96 minivan maintains 30mpg right up to about 63 mph, on a one hr drive..

Drag is a function of the cube of the velocity. Even if you maintain 30 at 63, you will do better at 55. Unless something else is chewing up the difference. 63^3/55^3 is 1.5, a 50% difference on the external drag. If you have a very sleek minivan, that might be small.

I know on my 2door Honda Civic, 55 vs 65 is what puts me close to 40mpg.

cfm in Gray, ME

He is probably reading the computed mpg from the Driver Information Center.
After filling up and doing the math I've found significant variations in mpg than what the DIC was telling me while driving.

Horsepower requirement due to aerodynamic drag increases with the cube of velocity. The fuel consumption due to aerodynamic forces increases with the square of the velocity. Both depend on the aerodynamics of the vehicle and the drag of an SUV or van is much larger than that of a typical car, since the frontal area of the SUV or van is greater than the car and the cutoff rear causes the drag coefficient to be larger than that of a car.

There's no way to change either aspect of the SUV/van's aerodynamics. The so-called "crossover" vehicles are closer to cars, thus can achieve better fuel economy. This suggests that we really do need the CAFE standards, as they would tend to punish the vehicles with poor aerodynamics, if only so that the manufacturers are forced to price the gas guzzlers higher than the fuel efficient cars.

E. Swanson

Because avoiding ridicule is the first thing I think they consider. Not that I disagree with you, but this has 'Sweater Speech' all over it. Is there a way to show that self-restraint and patience are actually signs of strength and intelligence? (I actually was going to delete over the 'intelligence' part, largely for the reasoning of sentence #1)

But really, I do think there has to be a way to present the ideals of frugality and thrift without evoking the images of frailty and incapacity that have been so well tied to them. In fact, being able to do more with less Doesn't make you a milquetoast or a feeble granny.. but the image of such things is persistent, and it reinforces the fear that people are having their 'lifestyle negotiated' on them by eco-fascists or something. I mean, yes, the eventualities may well teach this lesson to us all of how essential and admirable it is to be sparing or truly 'economical', but it would be better if we were able to start prepping people for that lesson before the Hood-Ornament is starting to crumple into the Cinderblocks..


Because avoiding ridicule is the first thing I think they consider. Not that I disagree with you, but this has 'Sweater Speech' all over it. Is there a way to show that self-restraint and patience are actually signs of strength and intelligence? (I actually was going to delete over the 'intelligence' part, largely for the reasoning of sentence #1)

I would simply change it to "wisdom".

"Drive like it's the last gas on earth." could have different meanings to different people, but still gets the point across.

If you want to avoid changes in the laws, simply enforcing the law would be a big start. When the speed limit was 55, everyone drove 65. At a speed limit of 65, they get away with 75 and the cops set their alarms to 90 or above on busy days, easily filling quotas.
Simply enforcing the 65 limit would make the same difference as changing all the signs. 1-2 mph make the difference between dying in a rollover or driving off the road with ABS.
Accident energy, fuel economy, climate change: all exponential functions.

I third it. Congress still believes that oil and the Middle East is a petro-dollarium waiting 2B tapped. I can also offer this, as being a lifelong resident of Michigan -the unions had their day and their purpose when competition was beyond and well ahead of the world in auto mobility manufacturing. Unions promote laziness when they have no competition. Individual minds working under this atmosphere therefore tend to get soft as well. Job banks? Consumption benefits? Michigan was a very independently thinking state of engineers with a get it resolved/accomplished philo 50 years ago.

Dingell has to save face with the auto industry. He has to buy some father time CAFE before implementing mother natures recourse. He is in the same position as our dear Fedfiat controller....The "Y" has walls at both ends of the chosen path.

Walls of unaccountable fiat taking hold.

The crux of the matter is that it matters little who writes the laws as long as the fiat lords decide the fate.

Labor lobbies fiat, fiat throws them a bone, jobs move out, labor whines, fiat changes demographics pretending to be labor....A cleansing? Perhaps....but we will need some of that manufacturing know how when the world tightens and the oiled up service party stumbles back home.

Anything in the energy bill preventing individual states from lowering their speed limits to 55 mph?

Just the state of insanity, Alan. Our fine legislature in Texas raised the speed limits to 80 on the Interstate in West Texas just a couple of years ago.
Bob Ebersole

Lowering speed limits is all well and good if they are enforced! I drove to work for 25 years on a section of I24 that is locally known as the 'East Ridge Speedway' where the posted speed limit is and has always been 55. Most drive it at 70-80 so driving 55 could get you killed. I never once saw anyone pulled over for speeding and do not personally know of anyone ever receiving a ticket on it. I once had a wreck on it by stopping to avoid hitting a four car pileup in front of me. Unfortunately the pickup with the huge oversize tires behind me just ran right over me and flipped on its side.

I am against the lowering of the speed limit as it is already frustrating enough to get to places in this country and I see no reason to have the state and insurance industry impose more taxes/fines on people, regardless of the benefit. Now if all of the additional monies were mandated to increased rail projects in the state collected, maybe I will buy into lower speed limits.

Amendment - No more waste water treatment plants, no more interchanges, no more addition of lanes and then we will have public transportation.

How about this, Greg:
We create a Blackwater security division to make corporations with more than 100 employees provide transportation to them. If you are an executive, I'm sure they will give you a Ferrari, if you are a floor sweeper, get used to the smell of horses.

The problem is passengers/vehicle mile (not to mention passengers/vehicle ton). This was enforced in Southeast Wisconsin for a while to counter an ozone problem. Companies were encouraged to set up carpools in various ways. More effective and cheaper than building carpool lanes, and more efficient than creating a government agency watching a government contractor watching a bus company.

People will be more amenable to these ideas as the gas lines grow and the prices reach for the sky.

Bring back the horse - Nature's perfect transportation animal!

"The problem with renewable portfolio standards ... is that legislators and others often lost sight of what we are trying to accomplish ... The goal is, or should be, to cut fossil fuels."

Right. And that is why an "X% renewable by year Y" type of goal is useless: left unsaid is that total energy supply and demand is assumed to grow meanwhile, by one or several percent each year. That means that even if the X% renewable is achieved, the total fossil fuel demand, and CO2 emmissions, will still grow. And given peak oil and gas, that's not just bad for the climate, it's simply impossible.

The only thing good about such a plan is that it would cause investment in some renewable sources. More important in my view is to push energy consumers towards lifestyles and equipment that would allow them to use far less energy without great hardship.

Allow 179 deductions for PV panels (or small wind)

(I'm sure the small wind people like Bergey are in their swinging and I wish them the best.)

Are you sure they aren't Depreciable already?

I have wanted to get a 'real' PV or Hot Water setup on our House, which is 2/3 rented out to others, and I thought that Electric or Heat that supplied the entire building would be deductible (pro-rated) as a business property. Is that not so?

Or do you mean to allow people to Amortize them even as personal-use investments?


We clearly want as high CAFE standards as possible, as soon as possible. High CAFE standards will save fuel, and will also help Detroit sell more cars. If Detroit continues business as usual, the Japanese companies will continue to raise its percentage of total cars sold, and Detroit will continue to lose ground.

With respect to renewable fuels, it is silly to mandate that 20% of total fuel be from renewable sources by 2015 or any other future year, unless we actually have a way to produce this fuel, and we don't at this time. Cellulosic ethanol is not a commercial possibility at this time. If oil companies are to plan for 20% ethanol, they will need to develop a whole distribution system for ethanol that does not go through the regular pipelines, since ethanol cannot be shipped by pipeline. There is a significant likelihood that this ethanol production will never materialize, and the oil industry will never be able to use this major investment. SInce the oil companies do not have unlimited resources, the resource that are used for this purpose mean less that can be used for other, more worthwhile purposes.

Additional taxes on the oil industry are of very questionable benefit. I understand from discussions with the American Petroleum Institute that some of these taxes make it more expensive to process oil in the United States, and thus encourage the oil industry to shift workers overseas. It is hard to see how this is beneficial to the United States. Other taxes make US oil companies less competitive with foreign companies. These are not particularly helpful either.

Legislation forbidding price gouging is counter-productive, since it raises the risk of having petroleum "outages". In times of emergencies (such as hurricanes), oil companies may be discouraged by the price gouging legislation from using extraordinary measures to procure additional oil , because it is not clear that they will be able to charge appropriately for their efforts. The likely result is no supply, rather than higher prices.

now that's a heck of a post, Gail. Amen.

High CAFE standards will save fuel, and will also help Detroit sell more cars.

Gail, sorry, on this one you obviously are outside of your area of expertise.
High CAFE standards will kill the domestic auto manufacturers as they are utterly inefficient. If there are loopholes in the standard Detroit will game the system as usual and nothing is achieved.

My personal approach would be to let the market do the job, get rid of CAFE all together, leave the speed limits alone / up to the states, and slap a $2.00/gal tax on gasoline and non-commercial diesel. Instant demand destruction and the market will tell the auto makers what to build. No gaming, no tax subsidies, real engineering.

No gas tax? Rules don't change the fact that it takes for ever to replace the fleet and with no demand destruction gasoline might just be up there anyway before the effects of regulation show.

On the other items, ethanol in particular, we are 100% in agreement.

I have lately swung to that opinion on CAFE. We have fuel efficient cars now. We need to convince consumers to buy them, not force car makers to produce cars that people aren't demanding.

My impression is that this issue is so popular because the public thinks that by raising mileage standards, the fuel efficiency of their Expedition is going to double. That's not how it will go. Detroit will be forced to build more cars for which there doesn't seem to be enough demand. Or, they understand that the fuel efficiency of their Expedition isn't going to change, but they think CAFE will force everyone else to get more fuel efficient. Why? What changes? If Detroit makes smaller cars, how are people going to be convinced to buy them? It might work in a very inefficient manner, by restricting the number of large vehicles, and therefore increasing the price. But then that will be more lucrative for some producers to continue building large vehicles.

This problem is not a supply problem, it is a demand problem. We have to work on the demand side.

So Robert, have you seen a model for a Gas or Carbon Taxing Scheme that you find has potential? While any such tax would be politically uncomfortable, shall we say, the other side of the project would be to have the idea come at the Congress from the public in the first place.

Knowing what views of the 'public' can be around here, I'm sure that will get guffawed.. but while I don't want to pay more either, I also want, as part of that public, to be able to push us in the right direction, even if it's a hard, hard push. This could be sold (accurately) as part of that 'Manhattan Project' for Energy and Climate' that I think many, many people are hoping someone out there Finally leads us towards.

Anyway.. it there a workable Carbon-Tax idea out there?

Bob Fiske

As a result of the Rolling Stone article, someone e-mailed me and said that presidential candidate Bill Richardson was going to be the guest on his radio show in Iowa this week. He asked if I wanted to pose some energy questions to Governor Richardson. So I did. Here was one:

Europeans use less than half the per capita energy that Americans use, yet enjoy very high standards of living. The reason for this is that they pay high gas taxes, with has resulted in different behavior. For instance, they drive more fuel efficient vehicles, they drive more diesels (much greater fuel efficiency), and they don't commute long distances. Would President Richardson entertain the idea of higher gas taxes, even though this has been called political suicide? How about a revenue neutral plan in which gas taxes are raised, but income taxes are lowered and tax credits provided for low income Americans? This would, I believe, result in the types of behavior changes we need to have going forward.

I think Richardson "gets it" a lot more than a lot of other candidates. I think he has done a nice job in New Mexico on energy issues. And I absolutely believe that a gas tax, if done the right way, does not have to be political suicide.

I also agree with the idea of rebates for high efficiency vehicles. In fact, I suggested this when the Prop 87 debate was going on. I argued that if you just took the $4 billion that was expected to raised and gave it directly to people for purchasing very fuel efficient vehicles, you would truly have an impact on gasoline consumption. Instead, they were planning to squander the money on pie in the sky that probably would not have paid off.

A gas tax would be good. I think a tax on inefficient new vehicles (and rebate for efficient ones) is a better idea.
1) The decision we want to influence is really the car-buying one, not the tank-filling one. A gas tax can influence car-buying, but only indirectly if purchasers "do the math". An inefficiency tax would show up directly in the sticker price.
2) People hate a gas tax. It makes them feel like they're being punished for a decision they made in the past (the last car they purchased). A tax on new vehicles empowers them to avoid it or even profit by choosing an above-average efficiency vehicle. And because people hate a gas tax, politicians are loathe to support it.
3) A gas tax is regressive. But most poorer people are buying small cars or buying used anyway, so they wouldn't be hurt.

Anyway. Absent both a gas tax and an inefficiency tax, I'd support higher CAFE standards as the most realistic way to improve things in this legislative cycle.

Ultimately I want to see either a broad carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. The latter has the advantage of being integratable with international systems. Cap-and-trade allotments must be AUCTIONED, not handed out based on previous emissions, to keep a fair playing field for new market entrants and reward rather than punish companies that have already made improvements.

And is that SUV tax write-off for small businesses still in existance? Can we kill that please? Or is that part of some other legislative package....


This problem is not a supply problem, it is a demand problem. We have to work on the demand side.

This could be easy.

P(reliminaries) Suspend CAFE standards, but do test efficiency of vehicles in real life.

The plan: tax a certain percentage of the lowest efficiency vehicles, cars & light trucks, as actually sold, monotonically increasing with lower efficiency, no compensation for mass or 'class of vehicles'. A 19mpg SUV is 19mpg, not equivalent to a 30 mpg car.

Rebate that net amount of money to high efficiency vehicles, scaled again with efficiency and possibly emissions and with respect to vehicles actually sold.

The tax/credit would probably have to be adjusted every quarter or two to take into account sales patterns.

If the rebate were substantial enough---e.g. $3-4000 it could certainly tip the balance for people who were considering getting a new car to get one substantially more efficient than otherwise. E.g. $2000 rebate on a conventional Civic or even a manual-shift Focus can be quite substantial. Right now you can get a 31 mpg focus for about $11k new after Ford rebates etc.

On the low efficiency side, I'd propose making the tax partially proportional to the sales price as well so that somebody who buys a low efficiency bentley will pay more than somebody who buys a true utilitarian work truck.

One key point here is that the tax on the low end of the distribution and rebate on the high end will be there always if it is made relative to the efficiency of vehicles recently and actually sold. And hence if buying habits change for efficiency, the motivation to further increase efficiency will persist without additional legislative or regulatory action.

Unlike the CAFE standards, there would be no non-economic decisions needed by the car makers to equalize "makes" to all a certain number. They could specialize in whatever they wanted with the ultimate profit margin after rebates in mind.

Politically I think this is much better than a gasoline tax hike for now. It hits people at the point they have an opportunity to make a choice, and it doesn't hurt poor people the way a fuel tax would. Fuel tax hurts them alot, and since they don't have money to change cars much, they couldn't do anything about it.

Think emotionally. A fuel tax hike will seem like just the government taking money from them for something they can't really do that much about. The backlash will be quite high.

And with a hike in a fuel tax, used high efficiency cars would be quickly more expensive and harder for the poorer people to buy. But with a rebate on high-efficiency new cars, there would be a total greater supply of high-efficiency cars and this will lower their overall prices which is good.

This is the first proposal concerning a tax scheme that I've seen on this site that has a chance of working.
At least in the sense of an appropriate use of a tax.
You still need to include the CAFE hike though, with leasing and incentives dealers will always find a way to get you in a larger vehicle.
Nobody mentions the dealers but they have a significant voice in what types of vehicles the domestic car co.s produce.
Most of them sell foreign brands as well so why would they want Detroit to compete with those sales?
100% agreement with your point on a gas tax. Well said.

Robert, I think you're wrong. I think people want more efficient vehicles, even if they're a bit smaller or less powerful, but don't want to "disarm unilaterally". The following is from and :

Americans may want to buy the biggest and most environmentally damaging vehicles available, but polls show that, given an option, some three-quarters of them vote for dramatic increases in fuel-economy standards—increases that may well force automakers to sell fewer (or at least smaller) S.U.V.s. We buy gas guzzlers but vote for gas sipping. This isn’t because people are ignorant about how higher fuel-economy standards would affect them personally; polls that explicitly lay out the potential trade-offs involved still find support for tougher standards. And it isn’t as if voters and car buyers belong to two different groups; one recent survey of pickup owners found that seventy per cent strongly favored tougher requirements. The curious fact is that many people buying three-ton Suburbans for that arduous two-mile trip to the supermarket also want Congress to pass laws making it harder to buy Suburbans at all.

What’s happening here? Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless. The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn’t afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage. Without the rule, the players’ individually rational decisions added up to a collectively irrational result. With the rule, the outcome was closer to what players really wanted.

I’ve seen this phenomenon many times. Ask someone who drives an unnecessarily large vehicle for their needs (pickup truck, SUV), and at least half the time that person will say the US government should raise CAFE standards. I think the explanation given above is accurate; I refer to it as the “no unilateral disarmament” mind set.

That hockey example is great - and applies to many of our energy and environmental issues today.

Yes, and it makes it so clear why we need regulation: free markets cry out for regulation, to handle this kind of "race to the bottom" problem.

Even utilities, oil, gas & coal companies recognize this now, and are asking for regulation.

I think the explanation given above is accurate; I refer to it as the “no unilateral disarmament” mind set.

I don't think that most people have thought it out that much, but certainly this is the mindset of some. Then you get into the arms race of "Everyone else will be forced to become more fuel efficient; I am sticking with my SUV."

"Then you get into the arms race"

Sure, you'll always have a few idiots. But, we shouldn't discourage Congress from passing a strong CAFE based on them.

Is a strong CAFE enough? No, we need carbon taxes as well. But, even alone it will help enormously: don't forget, 50% of vehicle miles are driven by vehicles less than 6 years old.

I agree with the motivations of those hockey players, I would never venture out on the ice without mine.
But I think people do a little wishful thinking when taking those polls.
As an auto designer I've seen first hand what 35mpg will do to shape and size of trucks. They will be getting MUCH smaller.
And lower to the ground.
And weigh less.
And haul less.
Given that knowledge I wonder how they would respond?

What do you think of PHEV's?

On the contrary, Gail was spot on.
Of course high CAFE standards will kill domestic automakers, just like they did when they were made to switch to unleaded gas and when seat belts became mandatory and when air bags were required, oh don't forget the original CAFE implementation.
Detroit will respond because we have to, or our competition will bury us.
Don't forget Toyota is fighting higher CAFE too. They have a huge investment in the hulking Tundra and they want it to pay off.
Based on what I see at work, the "market" is already telling the car co.s that bigger, faster and more powerful is what people want.

Lower fuel consumption will have to be mandated or it won't happen. And it won't be a question of people not buying it, they'll have to or not drive.

I'm glad you have deep enough pockets to afford a 2 buck tax hike but many can't. Since most parts of the country have little or no public transportation, that really screws them. How very elitist of you.

And why should commercial diesel get a walk?
They are the most conspicuous fuel wasters of all.
Not to mention the pounding they mete out to the roads, the air and other cars.
Ever see those hunks of tire on the road?
Those are semi tires that disintegrate, just like they were designed to do when flat.
After all a trucker doesn't have time to check ALL THOSE TIRES now does he? Not when he's got a load to deliver and better not get in his way!
Unfortunately "disintegrate" in this case means "fall off" more or less.
Ever been smacked by one of those while doing freeway speeds?
Another reason to NEVER ride a motorcycle.
And the greatest joke of all is the gas and tire taxes WE pay goes to subsidize commercial trucks. Too bad the jokes on us.
A gas tax won't do squat to lower consumption.
Those who can afford it will continue to use and abuse.
What you propose is all gaming, more subsidy and no engineering.

I can afford any fuel tax not because I'm wealthy, but because I have lowered my footprint at least by a factor of 10, sooner or later everyone will have to do it, might as well get in shape while you can still choose the pace.
The tax may penalize lower income people for a short time, but my point is that without demand destruction the price will rise past that level in a few years and they will be affected more.

If they want to use CAFE fine, set a number and include every single vehicle sold by a manufacturer. No exceptions, no foreign and domestic fleet, no separate light truck standards (the proverbial camels as horses designed by committee's), no trading, nothing. Just real world mileage, the CAFE number and the date. Anything short of that makes CAFE a pretense of doing something while actually doing nothing except increase employment for lobbyists.

I have lowered my footprint at least by a factor of 10, sooner or later everyone will have to do it

Congratulations. That puts you in probably the top .05% of the population as far as lowered consumption goes.
Very elite company indeed.
And yeah sooner or later everyone will have to do it.
How we get there is the all important question though.
A huge tax like you propose would deliver a blow to the economy that is difficult to comprehend.
Why do you think lower income people would be affected for only a short time?
I think that not only would their poverty deepen but almost certainly their ranks would grow as well.
We are in the position of some people travelling in a car when they suddenly realise they have only a gallon of gas remaining and 80 miles to their home.
What to do?
Does the driver stop the car and charge everybody $2 to continue the ride? tax
Or does he stomp on the gas to get as far as he can faster? CERA et al.
Or does he slow down, maintain a steady speed and stretch out the ride as long as he can and to minimze the inevitable walk?

Double click, double post.

If all cars and trucks starting today sold in the US were mandated to get 80 mpg, what would that do ? The price of oil would drop - agreed? People would drive more, live farther out, china and india would accelerate their driving habits - and 10 years from now we would all be in a much more precarious position because of the structural changes that were temorarily enabled - and still energy supplies would be depleting and so on.

The best thing that would come of it, would possibly be that the cars would by necessity be smaller, which would allow those localities that wanted, to create compact, walkable communities. How? The biggest problem right now for communities like mine that *want* to provide transportation options and *are* doing it, is that a HUGE amount of space has to be devoted to car storage - on the street, and in structures. It spreads things out and raises the costs considerably. In some cases, the square footage of parking is more than the primary use in a project. And, the required space size has been getting bigger and bigger due to the monsterous vehicles people insist on buying.

well i think my comments would be far too radical for our legislature. They don't live in the real world, a ball less 8,000 miles in diameter. They live in a ficitonal world that is infinite in length and width. In this world of inifinite resources, they can just move into concentric rings into new territory when the inner ring is exhausted.

but i'll put my two cents in anyways.

the religious obsession with growth will end eventually. We may as well start dealing with it now before things get really bad.

we must build more light rail in inner cities and we can use high speed trains to link major cities. forget about over-sized cities in the southwest, they can't last. Not as big as they are anyway.

also, a consumption tax is an excellent idea. Even if it's tough on the poor, they number of poor will grow in the not too distant future anyway.

We need to think of ourselves as being like japan or europe because it will not be too long before we are just like them.

also, a consumption tax is an excellent idea. Even if it's tough on the poor, they number of poor will grow in the not too distant future anyway.

You're assuming, of course, that you won't be one them.
Amazing how many elitists flock to the pro tax side!

Better CAFE standards would have been a good idea twenty years ago. IMCO, CAFE standards [and gouging] are of little import in the big picture.

For current times, we need to work on an overall carbon cap: Nuclear Policy Research Institute report summary. Carbon is more or less the result of our use of energy in today's world. Carbon caps would subsume CAFE standards. But they have to be strict, enforced, and non-transferrable across national boundaries [so national policy can have effect]. The NPRI report requires that they decline annually and zero out by mid century.

One of the themes API's Red Caveney hit on over and over on today's blogger call was the need to educate legislators and the public about the terms of the debate. Maybe he was just being polite when I brought up absolute carbon caps, but he put them in class of topics about which we need to learn more.

What is of critical import in today's debate is the overall scale of the economy and its relation to the overall total amount of energy we use. The assumption that "More is Better" is wrong. We have to use less. That's not a rousing political message for most, but it cannot be denied indefinitely.

Nor do we have 20 years to make marginal adjustments. We have to make a qualitative jump now.

All of the above is why Maine's Energy Office admits this will not be solved democratically.

cfm in Gray, ME

This is adressed mainly to the Maryland delegation and Congressman Hoyer most directly.

Maryland has been out front on renewable energy. It has passed a renewable energy portfolio of its own, it has a higher cap on net metering (1.5 GW) than its neighbor Virginia, and it has legilsation to prevent home owners associations from placing unreasonable restrictions on the installation of solar power. Maryland is working to promote biofuels, espcially in non-food-competing winter crops like hullless barley and is attempting to learn more about sustainable biofuels from experts in Brazil through sister state arrangements and business development work. Maryland is a leader in renewable energy and for good reasons.

A strong concern for the environment is primary. When we paddled over to Congressman Hoyer's house last April 14, the first thing we talked together about with the Congressman was the damage from Huricane Isabel. If Dr. James Hansen is correct, the shores of the Patuxent where Congressman Hoyer lives could be 15 feet underwater at the end of the century. PAX Naval Air, Dalgren and Indian Head, which survived the BRAC, will all lose land and perhaps have to be relocated. Already, people in Maryland can't get insurance for their homes owing to the risk of stronger hurricanes.

A strong concern for national security is also present. In our follow up meeting with Betsy Bossart, Congressman Hoyer's District Director, we discussed the findings of those who have gained wisdom in this through their long service. The implications of environmental changes arising from the way we get energy for our defence infrastructure worldwide are appalling. We discussed the GAO report on the uncertainty in future oil supplies that Congressman Bartlett had urged to be written. And, perhaps most importantly, we discussed stewardship, our obligation to our progency to leave them a better world just as we have been benefited by our predecessors. This is a moral issue.

Maryland is already doing much, and I think will do more, but now it is time to bring what Maryland has been learning to the Nation as a whole. Increasing CAFE standards is something even the National Petroleum Council supports, but it is not something that Maryland can do on its own. California might, but we are a small state and on this we need a national standard.

Both the National Petroleum Council and the World Nuclear Association (WNA) support the adoption of renewable energy and government action to support the adoption. To quote the WNA website:

If the fundamental opportunity of these renewables is their abundance and relatively widespread occurrence, the fundamental challenge, especially for electricity supply, is applying them to meet demand given their variable and diffuse nature. This means either that there must be reliable duplicate sources of electricity beyond the normal system reserve, or some means of electricity storage. Policies which favour renewables over other sources may also be required. Such policies, now in place in about 50 countries, include priority dispatch for electricity from renewable sources and special feed-in tariffs, quota obligations and energy tax exemptions.

The nuclear industry understands the importance of government action in bringing on new modes of energy production.

Setting a standard for how soon we must achieve a 20% contibution to our energy mix will unleash massive innovation. We see it already in California, where the utility PG&E has just signed up to take batteries from Norwegian electric vehicles when they are no longer servicable for transportation and place them in office buildings to store power to meet peak demand. Those batteries will be leased rather than sold when used in vehicles in Europe and then solve the energy storage problem in California. As you can imagine, this can really scale. Batteries needed for transportation may well solve most of our energy storage needs. How many more great ideas will we be seeing and improving our world with as these standards come into effect? The answer is that the can do spirit of America will have a great awakening and we will meet our obligation to our progency while also, I think you'll see, living much better ourselves.

I urge the Maryland delegation to the House of Representatives to unanimously support an increase in the CAFE standards, and a renewable energy standard. I hope especially that Congressman Hoyer can join me in this call.

With Best Regards,

Chris Dudley

Bryans Road, Maryland, Fifth Congressional District

Chris, please email them this...look up the address at if you don't have it.

Thanks also for giving others motivation to write as well.

I'm going to send the link to Betsy.


I was pleased to see that the Maryland delegation was nearly unanimous in supporting the Udall ammendment. But, I am surprised that the one person whose vote I would have thought most assured voted against it. Why did Congressman Bartlett oppose this amendment? I hope that the whole delegation can work together on raising CAFE standards and that Congressman Bartlett can help to show why this is so important.


Quick bullet points for congressional staffers:

- Solar energy should be emphasized. Plants convert solar energy to biomass at 1% or less efficiency. Commonly available PV is 20% efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Solar thermal systems, such as concentrating trough systems, are even more efficient. Do the math and don't waste our tax dollars on any more energy bridges to nowhere.

- Passenger rail construction should commence with the eventual goal of replacing air travel. The smart money has long ago left the airlines. Even in a conventional sense, we will never meet any kind of greenhouse gas emission limits with the amount of flying done. Trains, especially electric trains, make so much sense in every way they simply cannot be argued with.

- Mass transit in cities should be fully funded, emphasizing light rail.

- Even more critical than mass transit is desperate reform of land use planning. The disastrous suburban development pattern of the postwar years will be the country's biggest albatross in the years ahead. It could very well turn out to be a colossal failure of foresight from which the nation will not recover. Therefore, national planning patterns and land use requirements that preserve green space and encourage density should be implemented.

This may sound like pie in the sky, but I would proffer a few observations:
- The current 'conservative revolution' is running out of steam. The Administration has lost all legitimacy, and its water carriers in the legislature are as well. More of the same old same old as in the past will not do anything to increase the public's current dismal satisfaction numbers with the legislature. You can make a real break and I think people will follow.
- Tie the suggestions above with getting us out of Iraq. Then actually get us out of Iraq. That will cement your legitimacy.
- Tie the suggestions to efforts to bring universal health coverage to everyone. This will further cement legitimacy in an ignored area.

Solar energy should be emphasized

The Staffers should go back on TOD (and other places) to be reminded that oil, gas and coal are all old sunlight. Wind and hydro are more modern sunlight.

I strongly believe the benefits of adopting a national renewable energy standard outweigh the potential problems it might create. I compiled a list of reasons for and against HR 969, the National Renewable Energy Standard.

The strongest opponents of this measure are the coal industry and a few electricity providers. Here are some of the arguments against the measure:

1. Unfairly penalizes states that do not have adequate renewable energy resources.

2. Places a burden on consumers and electricity providers resulting in increased electricity costs.

3. Creates another federal regulatory environment that will add costs to the federal budget.

4. Does not provide funding of any sort.

But there are many more proponents of the measure, representing a formidable group of voters. Here is a list of over 200 organizations in favor of the measure:

Organizations in favor of a National Renewable Electricity Standard

Here are 10 reasons to vote for a National Renewable Energy Standard, HR 969

1. Renewable energy portfolio standards have already been implemented in 24 states. Renewable portfolio standards are the most powerful tool that a state can use to promote wind energy. So far, these have been particularly important for driving wind energy investment in Texas, Minnesota, and Iowa, where more than 1,700 MW of new capacity has been developed to meet the requirements of just these three states.

2. Reduced dependence on foreign energy sources. Dependence on foreign energy sources is a national security issue, and developing renewable energy resources will help secure a reliable domestic energy supply.

3. Lower long-term energy costs for consumers. Consumers are facing increasingly higher energy bills caused by competition for foreign energy sources in the face of tight supplies. In addition, if more renewable resources are developed, consumers will see savings in natural gas prices by 2020.

4. More investment and jobs. Measures like the California Solar Initiative have stimulated investment in renewable energy and resulted in growth in the solar power industry.

5. Reduced greenhouse emissions and pollution from non-renewable energy sources. Since growth in the electricity supply is needed, new growth should not cause more environmental problems than we already have. Some states have not developed any significant renewable energy resources, yet everybody pays from the effects of pollution and greenhouse gasses. This measure will provide these states with a means of contributing to the development of renewable energy.

6. Stimulation of innovation and growth in the renewable energy industry. As more renewable energy resources are developed, competition within industry will result in more efficient and less costly ways to develop renewable energy resources. Economies of scale will reduce the cost of developing renewable energy.

7. Stronger US economy. Investing in renewable resources helpsstabilize volatile energy prices, and reduces drag on the economy caused by high energy costs.

8. Reduced trade deficit. Domestic energy supplies displace imports of natural gas, and oil, as more transportation energy is shifted to electric power.

9. Improved foreign relations. Showing a commitment to develop renewable energy sources is a way to demonstrate that we really do care about the environment and sustainable economic development. It will also help alleviate tension in the world about US intentions regarding securing energy supplies.

10. Stimulate growth in exports of renewable technology. The US has fallen behind in areas like wind technology, where Germany for example has produced and installed many more wind turbines than the US.

Text of HR 969, Thomas database

Needless to say, I'm still plowing through the proposed legislation.

Here's a couple of comments, though.

1. I agree that we need improved CAFE standards. Perhaps we could encourage the car companies by offering a substantial tax credit for achieving the goals early ? How about loan guarantees for the retooling in American based manufacturing plants? This would really help manufacturing employment plus help auto manufacturers in some very trying times for their industry,without costing the Treasury.

2. On railroads-we need to encourage the electrification of railroads, and a vast increase in rail accessability. How about a provision to dedicate a double tracked line down all the Interstate Highway right of ways?
That will cost money, because some provision must be made for grade separations and station construction.

3. We need to encourage the substitution of rail for long haul trucking. Let's add truck drivers to the job retraining in the renewable energy bill, and provide that all railyards have container loading and offloading equipment.

4. Liquified Natural Gas is a proven technology to substitute for gasoline and diesel. It cuts CO2 emmissions by approximately 90% over gasoline and diesel, plus its much cleaner. We have a surplus of gas in the United States, and a vast potential from unconventional gas in shales and coal beds. We need to encourage its use as a bridge fuel to wean ourselves off oil products. I suggest that we have a substantial tax credit for converting autos and trucks, not charge any fuel taxes on gas so that its less expensive than gasoline, and provide for grants to all working people within 150% of the poverty line to convert their automobiles to compressed natural gas or liquified petroleum gas (CNG or LPG). We should change the provisions of the mass transit laws to only pay for busses that run on LNG, CNG and LPG. Current laws provide for 90% of the bus cost to cities to be paid for by the Government, so this is revenue neutral.

5. We need an import tax on crude and finished gasoline and diesel. This will both discourage inefficency and raise revenue to support the massive changes we need to make in our electric grid, rail electrification and CNG conversions. I suggest $2.00/bbl for crude imports, and $4.00/bbl for finished transportation fuels, escalating over a 20 year period until our taxes equal those of Great Britain.

6. We need to encourage the domestic manufacture of solar cells and wind turbines. I suggest increased investment tax credits, plus an income tax holiday of 5 years for building new domestic plants and assembly facilities.

7. I agree that ethanol and biodiesel are counter-productive, but, we can't win 'em all. If we can get support for the rest of the energy bill by leaving the provisions in, I suggest we not argue.

8. We need to fast track nuclear power plant construction.

9. We need to prohibit states from blocking offshore drilling and leasing that is too far out to be visible from the shore-approximately 10 miles. Likewise, we need to prohibit blocking wind projects.

10. We need grants and increased student aid for engineering and science students on both undergraduate and graduate levels. Possibly forgive student loans in exchange for military service or service working for the Department of Energy, Minerals Management Service,NOAA and other appropriate agencies.

Bob Ebersole

The difference between success and failure in managing the energy depletion issue will NOT be determined in the halls of congress, but in the shop and labs of America.

With each passing year, I am more and more certain that what we can demand from our government is that they get out of the way of the innovation that the creative artists (and that is what they are) who actually design, plan and construct the alternatives are capable. Do not strangle them with red tape.

The victory, as it always has, will come in the shops.

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

Well Roger... government got out of the way and we got the Suburban, the Expedition, and the ubiquitous 4 wheel drive pickups that clog our suburban streets.

The result of big-government-is-bad thinking is that big corporatism has replaced it.

We cannot escape big, we can only choose the lesser evil.

If any staffers are reading...

I'm not an expert of crafting policy, but in general the givernment at the Federal level should be supportive of efforts by state and local governments to re-form their land-use and transportation and energy situations to a more sustainable model. This article from today was a bit troubling

A Bush administration bias against mass transit projects might be hindering federal approval of the proposed Metro extension to Dulles International Airport, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) charged yesterday.

The project is being paid for with local funds

Last week, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which would oversee construction of the rail line, asked federal transit officials for permission to spend state and local money budgeted for the project while waiting for the federal go-ahead to proceed with final design.

Removing barriers, supporting, incentivizing and in some cases providing supportive funding of localities efforts to restructure themselves to a more sustainable model is something federal energy legislation should address. The payoff of structural changes like this are far greater and longer lasting than developing alternative energy, conservation and efficiency mandates (even though these are all good things as well).

We all know that we have tremendous renewable resources avialable to us, but they are nowehre near full utilization. There is enough wind resource on the Great Plains to provide the equivalent of 6 times our electricity needs (technical issues aside) not to mention solar and other renewable sources.

I would suggest a moratorium on new starts of nuclear and fossil fuel plants until a utility reaches an RPS of 30%. That would encourage the utilities to just stop thinking about fossil fuels for a while.

I would couple this with a provision requiring the states to provide regulated utilities a 2% higher rate of return for conservation and peak shaving projects than the return allowed for new generation capacity.

For example, my back of the envelope calculations for Wisconsin show that if we utilized the manure from 75% of our cows, we could cover about 6% of the states electricity needs, and at the same time provide process heat for the milking parlors for wash water heating, reducing the need for natural gas and LPG. And of course, there are the ancilliary benefits of reducing the amount of methane released.

But the utilities have generally not been favorable to these independent power producers. We need to actively steer them in a new direction as to which choices to make.

For those who say "It'll cripple our ability to provide electricity", I would like to point out that it often takes a much shorter time to get all the permits and past the opposition for renewable projects than mega- fossil or nuclear projects.

Federal energy legislation is always a frustrating topic. For one thing, our elected leaders don't set appropriate benchmarks for measuring progress. If the purpose of this legislation is to improve this country's energy security and lower greeenhouse gas emissions from domestic sources, then progress can be measured by the volume of coal, oil, gasoline and (petro)diesel consumed annually. It then follows that reductions in fossil fuel usage would indicate progress.

I would propose annual reductions of 2% in each category listed above.

What the energy bill will in all likelihood contain are set-asides for renewable electricity and fuels. I have concerns about the efficacy of this approach, because a set-aside doesn't necessarily translate into reductions in fossil fuel use. There are problems as well with the tax credit approach, because it favors companies with large tax appetites and marginalizes smaller players.

I would love to see a carbon tax in this bill, but this country is too politically immature to subject itself to anything approaching fiscal discipline. If we're lucky, we might see some closing of tax loopholes currently enjoyed by the oil and gas industry, with the savings redirected into supporting renewable energy tax credits. I would rather see the support take the form of feed-in tariffs, a far more sensible and sustainable policy than a 10-year tax credit. Advanced renewable tariffs can be designed to support small, medium and large renewable projects, while entities that can take advantage of the wind tax credits are looking to build mammoth wind projects.

Indicators of a serious energy bill:
--Targets for reducing Fossil Fuel consumption
--Some kind of carbon-based tax
--Renewable electricity feed-in requirements
--Expansion of solar tax credit for homeowners
--$$ for electrifying public and private transport
--Regulatory relief to encourage co-generation at existing fossil steam plants

Indicators of a foolish energy bill:
--Biofuels mandate
--Subsidies for liquefying coal
--Nuclear subsidies that don't require a megawatt-for-megawatt reduction in coal generation capacity
--Continued reliance on borrowed $$ (instead of current wealth collected through taxes) to pay for renewable energy investments

I don't expect this energy bill to differ markedly from the mishmash adopted in 2005. I just wrote a piece about the inability of Congress to fashion a coherent energy policy. I'm not sure if the article was reprinted in The Oil Drum, but you can retrieve it

Friedrich Schiller: Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.

OK. No one has said it:
Woodstock Hydro claims that the average electricity user reduces their consumption 15% when they have smart power metering. Electric devices are rather complicated and the mechanism by which they use energy is hidden. When users have instant feedback about how much power they are using, then and only then, can they make the conscious choice to reduce their power usage to save money and energy.

The energy bill should contain legislation requiring electric power providers to install and maintain smart electric power metering in residences and businesses (with the charges passed on to the consumer over the course of a few years). Power meters should include displays inside the dwelling giving current usage, current $/kwh cost, net monthly usage and net monthly costs. Users are then able to see which appliances consume how much power and adjust their consumption patterns.

Electric power providers have little incentive to help their customers reduce their power consumption under the so-called 'free market'. Mandating smart metering is probably the only way to get it done.

Please see this oil drum article siting experiments in smart metering and the significant power savings of such systems.

The current energy bills appear to ignore the potential for growing biomass in the ocean (or lakes). This could be one of the most cost effective methods of growing biomass.

Recommend the following amendment to include water or marine grown biomass.

Union Calendar No. 130, 110th Congress 1st Session, H.R. 2776 [Report No. 110-214]
To section
“(A) IN GENERAL - The term ‘marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy’ means energy derived from– . . .
“(iv) differentials in ocean temperature (ocean thermal energy conversion).”

Please amend to add:
“(v) Biomass grown in water.”

Thanks for mentioning that. Current and Cumulative Usage Metering inside the dwelling. It's one that I too believe would make a significant difference.. but forgot to bring it up.. what can I say, Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Right?


A few thoughts off the top of my head that hopefully aren’t too off topic

• Regulate retail industry so that electronics stores (i.e. Best Buy / Circuit City) and other big boxes (Wal Mart etc.) don’t have 50 big screen TV’s (and countless other electronic gadgets) running needlessly during all business hours – have a couple running for display purposes and if someone wants to see a particular model turn it on for them. Also have all these booted up machines connected to some kind of master switch that completely turns off electric to them overnight – doesn’t just allow them to go into this electronic “hibernation” where they still draw substantial amounts of power. None of this stuff needs to be running at 2 AM at the mall…

• Strict regulation against unnecessary outdoor lighting – there are so many high intensity lights just hung on some pole around a typical community, again, shining thru all hours of the night – for what ? A side benefit of this would be actually getting to see the stars again…

• Provide incentives / education / subsidies (evil word I know) to people to encourage SMALL scale farming (via property tax breaks / discounted land in agricultural districts etc.). I think there are a growing number of people who would be willing to attempt farming – either by family, small collectives or other organizations (CSAs ?) but the land issue absolutely kills these ideas. The land price structure is dominated by what it’s worth strictly as dollars for development rather than it’s agricultural worth as a potential food source. Of course provisions would have to be included that prohibit then flipping this land off for development or for growing corn for ethanol – if it’s going to be used it’s going to be for food (and possibly multi use, such as farming and wind / solar – supported by the government with government guarantee that when some brand new suburbia springs up nearby they can’t kill the farm project by the new neighbors complaining about the smell or that they don’t want wind turbines around them…)

(1) I favor RPS and CAFE standards as politically feasible alternatives to a carbon tax and other ideas that require public education that's not going to happen soon enough. But we should look toward a carbon tax down the road as a way to minimize market distortions and regulatory jungles.

(2) I didn't see anything to encourage energy efficiency in buildings. Continuously verified energy savings from more efficient operation & maintenance, or through facility upgrades, should be an alternative path to comply with an RPS. (States with few opportunities for renewables do have plenty of inefficient buildings.) Continuous verification can be accomplished by monitoring of energy use and associated drivers of energy use such as inside & outside temperature. Utilities should be given a reason to provide such metering to their customers sized over about 25000 SF.

(3) In my community, roughly 75% of commercial property under management is leased. Owners of these don't pay utilities, and have no incentive to build efficient buildings. Lessees have a short-timer attitude that discourages efficient operation & maintenance. By contrast, the 25% or so of owner-occupied buildings include many LEED buildings. (a) Need tax credits for money spent by lessees to verifiably improve their energy efficiency, whether by O& M or facility upgrades. (b) Need graduated utility tax on all facilities, rate for which is near zero for very efficient facilities (LEED & similar), and rapidly increasing rates as per square ft energy use increases, so energy hog facilities pay dearly to be inefficient, and have incentive to become more efficient.

Les Lambert

Here's the policy idea that worked in a less than ideal location.. jobs, energy supply, industry..

'Germany an unlikely hot spot for solar power'

"By tapping the daylight for electricity, which power companies are obliged to buy for 20 years at nearly four times market prices, they are at the vanguard of a grassroots movement in the fight against climate change.

Former environment minister Juergen Trittin was mocked when he masterminded the scheme for his claims it would create jobs and not hurt the economy.

"It's grown much faster than anyone thought it would," Mr Trittin said.

"There are now 250,000 jobs in Germany in the renewable energy sector. Mr Asbeck expects the number of jobs in solar power alone to double to 90,000 over the next five years and hit 200,000 in 2020.

"That's just what they're Expecting us to do!" Airplane

Thanks for the phone number PG.
It was painless (for me that is, not the poor staffer who took the call).
I'm sure Sandy Levin will vote for the compromise bill favored by my employer but with oil at $78 time has just about run out for compromises.

S7505 ("Repeal of certain taxpayer subsidised royalty relief") It could be a politically good move to, rather than repealing these, to suspend them until the price of oil has fallen to, say, the prices set in S7504 (b) (2) (C) (1).

The logic is that while these tax breaks may have been needed to keep exploration going through tough times, while times are no longer tough for the industry then there is no need for the tax break ... and if the times turn, then they get put back.

While still in section F, I'd also put in some language requiring the Secreatry of Energy and Education to jointly report on Federal government efforts to encourage the study of petroleum geology, petroleum engineering, renewables engineering and so on under Pell Grants and similar. The oil and gas industry is already hitting a limit on trained people, and I suspect if renewables are ramped up, then they will start running out of people as well.

Therefore, make it reportable what the two Departments are doing about it.

The support for geothermal pilot programs is good, but I'd like to see something in there on energy efficiency in the oil and pipeline industry as well - you need rather a lot of energy to pipe oil and gas around the country, and a small increase in pipeline technology could be a decent investment. Not to mention environmental monitoring of pipelines (cue BP to the green phone, calling Broken Pipelines).

Ian Whitchurch

It seems like Rep Udhal has dropped HR 969, the National Renewable Energy Standard. There are no references to it on his house website or on that would indicate any action has occurred.

UPDATE (from Prof Goose): The modified version of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) bill, the old H.R. 969, was filed as an amendment (#96) to H.R. 3221 - but NOT YET approved by the Rules Committee for debate and votes tomorrow.

For staffers.

I am splitting this post into two parts for the sake of the separating the discussions that follow.
1) Passable legislation for this bill.
2) Politically feasible solutions to the PO/GW problem for legislation outside of this bill.

Part 1. Passable legislation for this bill

•Mass transit is the best approach we can take for PO or GW. Sadly, I think it's a nonstarter for this round in spite of broad public support. What can be done this round is mandating the planning for mass transit.

Putting mass transit in place at some future point is going to be faster, cheaper and easier if the plans are already developed and approved. So, craft a provision in this bill linking a state's federal highway funding to its mass transit plans. Something along the lines of this:

Federal Highway Funds normally available (FHFA)
Federal Highway Funds actually given (FHFG)
% of large cities connected by rail (Rail)
% of large cities with mass transit (MassTrans)
% of people in the city reached by mass transit (Reach)

FHFG = Rail * MassTrans * Reach * FHFA

Of course the parameters will need to be optimized and the onset date will need to be far enough out to allow the states times to comply, but hopefully soon enough to make a difference.

This has the added benefit that cities and states will likely be pressured by the locals to implement those plans once they are concocted even if there is no follow up on the federal level.

•Create tax breaks for carbon negative and carbon neutral enterprises. Tax breaks for noble pursuits are political winners. This will have a two fold effect. First, carbon negative is essential to combating GW. We are not going to stop climate change by reducing the rate of emissions alone. Reducing carbon emissions is critical, but damage is already being done at present carbon dioxide concentrations. We need to start pulling the carbon out of the atmosphere. Second, anything that is carbon negative is very likely to use little fossil fuel.

This is going to encourage organic farming practices as they sequester carbon in the soil to a much greater extent than large agribusiness. Which in turn creates jobs in the agricultural sector. If the doomers on this site are even half right then we are going to need a larger percentage of the work force involved in producing food.

It will encourage large agribusiness to use fertilizers like Terra Preta instead of the FF based fertilizers currently used.

Lastly, it will drive the biodiesel an ethanol producers away from projects with a negative EROEI like corn to ethanol and toward algae photobioreactors fed with flue gas from coal plants. Assuming, of course, that the coal plant is responsible for producing the CO2 and the photobioreactor gets the credit for sequestering it.

•Increace the amount of renewable electric production with a modified version of mbkennel's plan for vehicle efficiency.

The plan: Introduce a very small tax on nonrenewable electricity to subsidies renewable production.

Putting a small tax like 1¢ a kWh on the nonrenewable sources like coal to fund a 9¢ subsidy on every kWh of renewable. Since the nonrenewables are a much larger percentage of the pie the transfer to renewables would be substantial. At present coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil represent 90% of production. This transfer would make renewable highly competitive overnight. Gradually the balance would change as more renewables were added which would decrease the subsidy. But, by then the boost to the solar, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, biomass will have yielded enormous growth and improvement in these industries.

That's all

PS when thinking about solar, don't forget about Solar thermal systems, such as concentrating trough systems. As mentioned by dex3703 above. In addition to being highly efficient, they do not degrade over time like PV. Stirling engines and concentrating trough systems can be serviced over time, but PV needs to be replaced after 25 years or so.

For Staffers

2) Politically feasible solutions to the PO/GW problem for legislation outside of this bill.

I'm going to keep this short since it is somewhat off topic, but in my opinion critical. If you are only concerned with peak oil legislation skip this post.

The single best thing we can do to solve these problems is change the systems that created them. We have had enormous lead time on peak oil. We could have done something when Hubbert testified before congress in 1974 or during the oil crisis in 79 or any time after. We have also had lots of time to deal with global warming. We haven't. We are marching into a very unpleasant situation. Why are we doing this?

We are moving daily and at ever greater speed toward the destruction of our environment, our own life support system, and we have arranged it so that when we get there the resources will all be gone and the economy poised for collapse.

We are heading down this road because we have a collective action problem and we make very poor long term plans. The system we have set up for ourselves engenders this behavior, this mindset of short term profit at the expense of everything that is not short term profit. There are many reasons that the world, particularly Americans, have this mindset. Fractional banking, religious doctrine, advertising and mass media which changed the once frugal American to the world's biggest consumer, but I want to focus on the one thing that you in congress can change with the stroke of a pen.

In my view the biggest problem we face is the the legal structure of corporations. Corporations make only one thing, profit. They do it in various ways, but what they actually make for the stock holders who own them is profit.
Now I'm not against profit, or capitalism for that matter. I think capitalism would perform much better if the focus of the actors involved was shifted to optimize on multiple bottom lines, instead of the single bottom line of profit.

Things to look at:

Stake holders instead of stock holders
Common wealth economics
See America Beyond Capitalism

Worker owned businesses
See Mondragon Corporation

We need to reconfigure the system so that the industry ownership structure and decision making process behaves in a thoughtful and coordinated long term mode. This will fundamentally change the choices industry makes. Industry's relationship to government, lobbyists and campaign contributions, advertising, pensions, health care, community, etc.

It will then affect the mentality of the workforce. Most American's spend more time at work every day then they spend in any other single activity, television is a close second. This affects who they are and how they think. If we change the nature of the environment they work in then we change them, the average consumer, citizen, parent, etc.

I'm not so naive as to think congress is actually going to rewrite the corporate charter overnight, but any changes made in that area would go a long way.

Alternatively, you could start economic development programs to generate businesses under these structures. Any economic development or job creation is a big political win, and a worker owned business has zero chance of packing up shop and moving to China.


You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew. -Albert Einstein

The energy bills in the U.S. Congress makes one realize that all the congresses around the world are grappling with the same gorilla of a problem - oil supply starting to slip permanently behind the climb in demand. This problem is going to be big enough so that a nation's future standing in the world is going to be a function not of how many cruise missles or how much GDP it has, but rather how well it grapples with this gorilla. If it's true that the pen is mightier than the sword, then the busy legislative pens of our U.S. Congress, not to mention the pens of our media, should be put on trial for treason. I haven't taken a formal survey, but it seems to me that that the U.S. is persuing the most dangerous and unworkable energy policy of about any major nation. We started to take serious oil replacement measures back in the 1970s as a result of the Arab oil embargoes. Presidents Ford and Carter had bills in Congress building coal-to-liquids plants by the dozen and Carter even had solar panels put on the White House. We laughed at Carter and voted down the CTL. Reagan won a landslide, tore off the solar panels and, as promised, got government off the backs of industry to let market forces deal with energy. Laze fare is good with many things, but not peak oil. We were were a long way from the global peak in 1980, oil got cheap again, and we have sleepwalked into the present mess. Now it is going to be a stretch to get to the other side of the fossil bridge, but not with the bill strategy as it now exists. I've tooled through the bills in Congress looking for the basic strategy of the bills. I wrote a big post about it here with some hopefully constructive insights on overall strategy (which many other nations are using, including China).