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US Senate Democrats Push 5-Point Efficiency, Clean Energy Plan January 23, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The head of the U.S. Senate’s energy committee is aiming to boost energy technology research at the Energy Department, promote greater use of hybrid vehicles, advance development of alternative fuels like ethanol, and mandate greater use of renewable energy.

The overall goal is to pass clean energy legislation that would reduce America’s petroleum imports by 40% by 2020 by targeting five areas: energy efficiency, biofuels, tax incentives, global warming solutions, and research and development.

“We think these five together constitute a bold vision for the future,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said at a press briefing late Monday.

The framework of the Senate Democrats’ legislation hasn’t been decided. And Bingaman said he isn’t sure how many bills he will introduce to meet those goals.

Still, he knows, for instance, that he wants to try to mandate that 15% of the nation’s electricity must come from clean energy sources like solar, geothermal and wind powers by 2020.

Previously, Bingaman has promoted a 10% requirement, but action at the state level has prompted him to push a more aggressive standard. Several states have adopted so-called renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to use set amounts of renewable energy.

“I believe if you look at what states are doing, virtually all of them are more ambitious,” he said.

Bingaman added that he would like to introduce a bill requiring utilities to use more wind and solar power “in the next month or so.”

The senator also said he wants to help advance development of more energy-efficient buildings and require the government to reduce its petroleum consumption by 40% and to purchase 20% of its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Additionally, Bingaman is seeking to extend renewable energy tax incentives through 2017.

He also wants to increase the federal renewable fuels standard, which requires a set amount of ethanol – a gasoline alternative mostly produced from corn in the U.S. – to be blended into the U.S. motor fuel supply.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 required 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into motor fuel by 2012, but at the rate production is increasing, the industry will be at 10 billion gallons in 2010, said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who argued the need for an increase in the standard.

The committee is holding a biofuels diversity conference on Feb. 1.

“We have a lot to do – we need to produce more, conserve more and be more efficient,” Dorgan said at the news conference.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he would like to see the committee pass legislation that would push oil and natural gas companies to pay royalties on flawed 1998 and 1999 deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling leases.

And those new revenues could be used to fund the Senate Democrat’s five energy goals, he said.

Bingaman said the committee, which held a hearing on the issue last week, would be working over the next weeks to create a proposal to mend the Interior Department’s harshly criticized royalty recovery system.

By Maya Jackson Randall, Dow Jones Newswires

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