During the last week of July, after seven or eight years of intermittent and often excruciating negotiations, the U.S. Congress agreed on a comprehensive energy law and sent it to President George W. Bush for his signature. The legislation does not satisfy those who sought strong measures to reduce dependence on foreign oil and curtail greenhouse gas emissions, but it also disappoints some in the industry who wanted much bigger breaks than they ended up getting.
First and foremost, the bill makes electric power reliability rules mandatory, so that the kinds of lapses on the part of utility managers that led to the big blackout of August 2003 will now be punishable. The bill allocates billions of dollars for a variety of incentives to encourage energy efficiency and conservation, as well as greater use of wind, solar, and nuclear energy. It earmarks US $1.8 billion for development of clean-coal technologies.
The oil industry failed to obtain a federal guarantee against liability suits brought in connection with methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), an antiknocking fuel additive that was adopted after the use of lead in gasoline was banned. Equally surprising, the bill requires the amount of ethanol used in gasoline to be increased to 7.5 million gallons annually by 2012, from roughly 4 million gallons this year [see photo].
A proposal to require utilities to generate 10 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020 was rejected. And so was a measure calling on the president to somehow conserve a million barrels of oil per day--an invitation to the president to strengthen automotive fuel efficiency standards.