WASHINGTON, DC – A bipartisan group of congressional environmental champions joined conservation groups today to call for clean energy provisions as part of the Congressional energy package that will be sent to the President.
Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Paul Hodes (D-NH), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Todd Platts (R-PA), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Tom Udall (D-NM) said they will work to ensure that a strong 35 mile per gallon fuel economy standard and renewable electricity standard are included in the final bill. The Renewable Electricity Standard (H.R. 969) is sponsored by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Todd Platts (R-PA), and the Fuel Economy Reform Act (H.R. 1506) is sponsored by Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Todd Platts (R-PA).
“Not since I first came to Congress over 30 years ago has America seen such high gas prices and the political will to move forward on fuel economy standards,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “We need to ensure a strong 35 mile per gallon standard joins a renewable electricity standard in the final bill that heads to the President.”
Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) said, “Energy is an economic, environmental, and national security issue. Higher fuel efficiency standards for cars, a renewable energy standard for electricity, and similar initiatives are important to saving consumers money, conserving our resources and protecting the environment, and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.”
The House energy bill includes important clean energy and energy efficiency measures, and the Senate has passed legislation that calls for an increase in fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon. The final congressional energy package could be further strengthened by adding provisions to increase renewable electricity and preserve a strong 35 mpg fuel efficiency standard. Twenty three states and the District have already passed a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), also called a renewable portfolio standard or RPS, which would require utilities to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy they use to generate electricity each year. It creates a market-based mechanism of tradable renewable energy credits – similar to the Clean Air Act trading system – allowing utilities to meet the requirements at the lowest cost.
Utilities would receive a credit for every kilowatt of electricity they produce from wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, ocean, and biomass energy – which includes capturing the gas from landfills and animal waste – as well as for improvements made to existing hydroelectric facilities. These credits could be traded or sold among utilities, or bought from the Department of Energy.
“As Congress prepares to address the many important energy issues facing our nation, we must consider the benefits of renewable energy. Establishing a federal renewable portfolio standard will balance a wide range of interests," Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) said. "Not only will it help us meet our growing demand for electricity, it will also reduce our exposure to fossil fuel price spikes and supply interruptions, increase economic development in the renewable energy industry, and improve our environment."
A 2006 analysis by U.S. PIRG found that by obtaining 20 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 combined with a cap on global warming pollution, the U.S. would cut global warming pollution over 500 million tons, the equivalent of taking approximately 89 million cars off the road. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an RES standard of 20 percent by 2020 would generate over 185,000 new high-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction and more. In addition, the policy would save consumers at least $10.5 billion on their electric and natural gas bills by 2020.
“The Udall-Platts Renewable Electricity Standard amendment will create public benefits for everyone. The renewable energy goals it sets are significant, and the requirement is not overly burdensome for states as it gives them flexibility to achieve these goals. The passage of this amendment will benefit farmers, save consumers money, reduce air pollution, and increase reliability and energy security,” said Rep. Mark Udall, who is co-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus in the House of Representatives.
The Markey-Platts Fuel Economy Reform Act guarantees an annual four percent increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards to ensure the U.S. achieves 35 miles per gallon for new cars by 2018. Experts say that by 2022, this action would reduce oil consumption by the same amount currently imported from the Persian Gulf, about 2.2 million barrels of oil a day. In addition, the measure would save consumers $37 billion at the pump and lead to 241,000 additional jobs.
"Upgrading fuel economy standards is a commonsense step to decrease America's dependence on foreign oil,” said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). “Increasing standards would save the average American family $2,000 per year. Additionally, a national renewable electricity standard will allow us to take advantage of the economic benefits of renewable energies."
Several conservation groups have stepped up their lobbying on Capitol Hill in support of these amendments in recent days to ensure continued momentum on clean energy as House consideration of an energy bill approaches. The Senate passed its energy bill last month.