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Energy Bill Gets Green Light Then Red Light

December 10, 2007

Bismarck, ND - It's stop-and-go for North Dakota farmers, environmentalists and the public as major energy legislation creeps through Congress. The House of Representatives passed the "Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007" last Thursday, but the Senate has so far declined to bring it up for a vote. The legislation has a number of implications for North Dakota, including mandates for the use of renewable energy, higher fuel efficiency standards, and the repeal of tax cuts for the oil industry.

Two key provisions have stalled the energy bill. Opponents, including the White House, object to the repeal of tax cuts for oil companies, and to a provision that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of electrical power from renewable sources by 2020.

North Dakota's Congressional delegation voted in favor of the legislation; however, the state's ethanol and biodiesel producers have been pushing for the renewable energy mandate. According to Wayde Schafer with the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club, another provision also looks safe: higher fuel economy standards for vehicles.

"Raising the fuel efficiency standard is about 30 years overdue. It will save money at the pump, and it will help with global warming and also curb our dependence on foreign oil."

The bill requires automakers to raise the average fleet-wide standard to 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Schafer says the bill's renewable energy standard would be a huge win for the state's alternative energy industry.

"It's the first energy bill to provide serious funding for clean energy instead of shoving subsidies to Big Oil and other polluters."

The renewable energy standard and the oil company tax cut repeal are now in doubt, as the debate in Washington, D.C., continues.

Dick Layman/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ND