President Bush Signs 2007 Energy Bill

December 19, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

President Bush signed a major energy bill this week mandating increased fuel efficiency for new cars and trucks and taking other steps to modernize the nation’s energy policy, such as setting tougher efficiency requirements for refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers, and requiring a 70% increase in the efficiency of light bulbs.

In terms of fuel efficiency, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for: increasing the supply of alternative fuel sources by setting a mandatory Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring fuel producers to use at least 36 billion gallons of biofuel in 2022; and setting a national fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 &ndash which is intended to increase fuel economy standards by 40% and save billions of gallons of fuel. The bill follows decades of resistance from automakers to such regulation. Nonetheless, rising gasoline prices and the publicity regarding "global warming" appears to be leading to a shift in consumer preferences and public policy.

The bill also includes provisions to improve energy efficiency in lighting and appliances, as well as requirements for Federal agency efficiency and renewable energy use that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the bill will require all general purpose lighting in Federal buildings to use Energy Star® products or products designated under the Energy Department’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) by the end of Fiscal Year 2013. The bill will also update the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) to set new appliance efficiency standards. The new Bill amends EPCA to prescribe or revise standards affecting regional efficiency for heating and cooling products, procedures for new or amended standards, energy conservation, energy efficiency labeling for consumer electronic products, residential boiler efficiency, electric motor efficiency, and home appliances.

Though most observers commend any move toward improved energy efficiency and reduced consumption, critics point out that the bill still reflects the role that domestic political tensions play in determining the level of reform that can be achieved. For instance, the lawmakers scuttled a measure to impose $21 billion in taxes on oil and gas companies to help pay for the development of cleaner, renewable fuels, and also tabled an initiative that would have required electric utilities to improve efficiency or use more wind and solar power.

Reflecting the political divide, after signing the bill, the President again urged Congress to pass legislation that opens access to domestic energy sources such as the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also asked Congress to double the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to protect America against disruptions to the national oil supply.