Energized outlook

With President Bush’s signature now on the new energy bill, big changes are afoot. Auto fuel economy standards saw their first increase in more than three decades, with mileage up by 40 percent to a fleet-wide average of 35 miles per gallon for cars, light trucks and SUVs by 2020.

The word “revolutionary” is being bandied about with regard to the bill’s six-fold increase in the production of ethanol and alternative fuels—to 36 billion gallons by 2020. In 2015, the focus is to expand to cellulosic ethanol, which is made from non-corn sources, such as wood chips and switchgrass. Some Republican opponents raised concerns that the goal may be impossible to meet, given a lack of solid infrastructure for the new fuels. They also argue that calling for so much more corn and other fuel sources to be grown on land once used for food production will increase food prices, which already has been an effect of the 6 billion gallons of ethanol produced this year. However, the bill includes a waiver if producers are unable to meet the requirements for cellulosic ethanol.

The energy bill also calls for more efficient light bulbs and appliances and a rating system for vehicles showing how much greenhouse gases they emit.

Not making it onto the bill was a Democrat-led provision to reroute the $13.5 billion in tax breaks now given to oil companies to be used for renewable energy development and research.