STATEMENT: Dan Weiss on Energy Independence and Security Act

Speaker Nancy Pelosi quarterbacked this long touchdown drive for cleaner cars and other technologies that ends today with House passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act. It’s up to President George Bush to kick the extra point by signing these provisions into law.

A year ago, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a new direction for energy policy — one that reduces oil dependence, increases homegrown energy, creates jobs, and saves families money. The most politically challenging element of this agenda was to increase motor vehicle fuel economy. Numerous attempts to improve Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards failed over the past 30 years. After a year of their dedicated leadership, Congress will pass a forward-looking energy bill just as they promised.

In addition to Speaker Pelosi, there were many other essential players that contributed to this victory. Sen. Reid drove fuel economy and the rest of the bill through the Senate. Other vital players included Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin and Senators Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Bingaman, and Olympia Snowe who all pushed fuel economy improvements for years. Rep. Ed Markey, Chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, was a tireless advocate who wrote bills, offered amendments, built support, and kept the issue alive despite fierce opposition from previous House leaders. Rep. Todd Platts recruited Republican supporters. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell made the final compromise with Speaker Pelosi that made this achievement possible.

This energy bill is a historical achievement. In 2020, the fuel economy provisions will reduce oil use by 1.1 million barrels per day – about what we currently import from Nigeria. In 2022, , the renewable fuels standard will reduce oil consumption by 1.7 million barrels per day, which could replace over 90 days of gasoline use with biofuels that produce 80 percent less greenhouse gas pollution than conventional gasoline. The building and appliance efficiency standards would save enough energy to avoid construction of 58 new 500 megawatt power plants, which would reduce global warming pollution by 174 million metric tons.

Following this unprecedented achievement, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid said that they will seek to pass the renewable electricity standard and a tax package that creates incentives to invest in renewable electricity and fuels. This program would also eliminate tax loopholes worth a billion dollars a year to big oil companies while they make $120 billion annually in profits. These valuable provisions were removed from the energy bill at the administration’s insistence. With Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Reid’s leadership, smarts, and grit, these difficult goals will be met, too.