The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee plans to hold hearings on Thursday, June 22, to discuss a bipartisan energy bill that would reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States by 10 million barrels a day within 25 years. That's an admirable goal, but what's even more impressive about the proposed legislation are key elements that ensure America's carmakers and its farmers remain at the forefront of technology innovation.

The "Enhanced Energy Security Act of 2006," S. 2747, is sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the ranking member of the Energy Committee. He has drawn bipartisan support for the bill in the Energy Committee and is committed to ensuring that the necessary tax incentives are supported by the Senate Finance Committee, on which he's also a member. The chances of passage should be good. The reason: This is legislation America needs.

Bingaman's bill would encourage the swift introduction of alternative energy automotive technologies by helping U.S. automakers revamp their manufacturing plants for the production of new hybrid and highly energy efficient cars and by ensuring that alternative fuels are readily available to consumers across the country. The bill would encourage the use of cellulosic ethanol and keep in place tax incentives to encourage automakers and consumers to embrace alternative energy vehicles.

These are key policy provisions that the Center for American Progress and other progressive organizations have long supported in Washington and at the grassroots level around the country. America's energy policies clearly need to focus on crafting a smart renewable energy plan that invests in conservation and farm-based renewable energy and biofuels and then encourages the use of the new fuels. This approach also tackles the escalating threat of global warming.

Enhanced renewable energy options would spur stronger investments in cultivating sustainable domestic energy resources and begin to ease the threat of climate change. Requiring automakers to begin shifting over to high blends of biofuels and gasoline would go a long way towards creating a less oil-dependent economy. Part of this equation must include mobilizing farmers who, with proper support and financial incentives, could shift towards the production of energy crops.

Equally important to America's future is its automotive workforce. There are several ways in which policymakers in Washington can help our nation's troubled auto industry compete in the 21st century, but one key ingredient is to ensure our automakers are developing and then producing cutting-edge, highly efficient, alternative-energy vehicles that American consumers can easily purchase and drive. A manufacturing conversion incentive like the one in S. 2747 will go a long way towards making this a reality.

The Center for American Progress has done extensive research in these policy arenas. We're proud that many of our proposals are now under consideration in the Senate. The next step is to ensure these new progressive ideas become mainstream energy policy in the near future. See our suggestions below.

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