US Senate rejects proposals for increased use of renewable energy

The US Senate last week rejected a measure in proposed comprehensive energy legislation that would have required 20% of the country's power needs to be supplied using renewable energy by 2020.


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The measure was part of the Senate’s answer to the Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) Act which was adopted by the House of Representatives last year. The renewables option was sponsored by Senator James Jeffords, one of the sponsors for last year’s BREEZE (Bipartisan Renewable, Efficient Energy with Zero Effluent) Act, which called for a five-year extension to credits for wind energy.

The current proposal was defeated by 70 votes to 29. The US lags behind many countries in its adoption of renewables, with just 2% of its energy coming from such sources.

A proposal for stricter fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles, which would have increased the mileage per gallon for light trucks was also rejected amid vociferous opposition from US petroleum interests and Republican Senators.

This particular proposal, which would have revoked the 1975 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, fell amid claims that bigger, less fuel-efficient cars are safer.

Opponents of the renewables proposal included the power industry, which warned of sharp price increases if the measure was enacted. Some senators also warned of unfair economic advantages to states that had substantial wind and solar resources.

“It is unconscionable to continue to shackle ourselves to fuels that dirty our air and water and compromise our national security,” said Senator Jeffords in his address to the Senate.

Green groups remain optimistic that the Senate will adopt a more modest proposal during the debate on the bill, which is scheduled to last for most of March. This would see a 10% renewables option taken up. Democrats in the

Senate see this as a safer option as it mirrors a 10% renewables target in

Texas, adopted by President Bush when he was governor. California already has legislation that will see its proportion of energy produced from renewables increased to 20% by 2010.

The final vote on the bill may be delayed until April by Democrat threats of protests over the President’s proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife

Refuge to oil and gas exploration. Observers are predicting that this may make the Senate bill difficult to reconcile with the SAFE Act passed by the

House.

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