U.S. Energy Bill, Much Maligned, Hangs Fire

Enactment of a comprehensive bill was imminent yet still uncertain at press time

6 min read

Washington-- Somehow it seemed symptomatic of the unending debate over U.S. energy legislation that the final bill, just when it was due to emerge from a congressional conference committee on 5 October, got snagged by a dispute over an obscure issue having to do with gasohol. That led to a further two-week delay and still more uncertainty as to whether a comprehensive law will ever be enacted.

It's no secret that as each presidential election year nears, as candidates start flocking to the farm state Iowa to compete for voters' favor in a crucial early balloting, that extra-special respect must be paid to the idea of producing liquid fuels from grains. But why would an essentially routine and minor matter like that stall what is supposed to be a landmark bill?

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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