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Senate Passes Energy Bill

An energy bill that included an increase in fuel-economy standards passed the Senate by a margin of 86-8 yesterday, The New York Times reports. Provisions of the legislation that passed the House and would have repealed more than $13 billion in tax breaks to oil companies as well as a requirement that utilities produce 15 percent of electricity from renewable resources were stripped out.

Removing the tax breaks would have paid to extend and strengthen tax incentives for homeowners and businesses that install solar energy products, and other clean energy measures, The Albuquerque Tribune reports.

The White House had threatened to veto the House version of the bill.

The Edison Electric Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and groups representing the paper, mining, petrochemical and refining industries led the opposition to the renewable electricity mandate. The oil industry campaigned against the tax provisions.

The Senate bill represents a major setback for the automobile industry, which had fought against new fuel efficiency standards that mandate the use of 36 billion gallons a year of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels by 2022, The Boston Globe reports.

The car companies will have to achieve an industrywide increase to an average 35 mile per gallon for cars, small trucks and SUVs over the next 13 years, an increase of 10 mpg or 40 percent over what the entire fleet averages today, AP reports.

“Today’s vote is out of step with Americans across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support clean, home-grown renewable energy,” said AWEA senior director of governmental & public affairs Gregory Wetstone. “Wind and solar power can lower home energy bills, strengthen our energy security, create new manufacturing jobs and, perhaps most importantly, reduce global warming pollution even as we meet growing electricity demand. We will continue to work with Congressional leaders on these vital issues, and are confident that we will secure enactment of the tax incentives and other policies that Americans need and want to put our nation on the path to a clean and secure energy future.”
The bill now returns to the House

Separately, Congress reached a tentative agreement, to be included in a broad government spending bill, to authorize the Energy Department to guarantee loans of up to $25 billion for new nuclear plants and $2 billion for a uranium enrichment plant.  It would also provide guarantees of up to $10 billion for renewable energy projects, $10 billion for plants to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel and $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas, The New York Times reports.

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