On December 19, 2007, the President signed into law the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act. This bill is designed to take on our energy challenges by increasing energy efficiency standards and developing a larger supply of renewable fuels.
This bill is the result of a year of negotiating between the House, the Senate, and constituent groups such as environmental organizations, the oil and gas industry, and the automotive industry. The House passed a much more comprehensive energy bill in August 2007 that would have established a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which would have required utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020. The RPS had the potential to generate more than 5,000 new jobs and $2 billion in investment in North Carolina, as well as make good use of the state's tremendous biomass feedstock. I supported the RPS amendment to the original legislation, but this was stripped out of the final bill by the Senate.
Another provision in the House bill would have ended tax royalty relief for oil and gas companies and redirected this revenue to benefit the American taxpayer through investments in and tax incentives for energy efficient technologies and alternative sources of fuel. I voted for this provision, which would have also extended the wind and solar tax production credits. This important provision was removed by the Senate as well.
I voted for the final version of the bill, even without the RPS and tax provisions, because it represents a big step forward in American energy policy - one that does not rely on foreign imports of oil or domestic drilling of fossil fuels. This energy legislation includes the first increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards in more than 30 years. Cars and light trucks will be required to raise fleet-wide average fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40% increase over the current standard. This mandatory increase in CAFE is supported by the automotive industry.
The CAFE standard will be complemented by a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that requires 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be blended with conventional fuels by 2022, and requires increased use of biofuels derived from materials other than corn.
The Energy Bill also establishes new efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and buildings; new technologies for delivering electricity via a "smart grid;" and research into clean energy and alternative fuels, including carbon dioxide sequestration to promote clean-burning coal.
High gas prices and rising electricity costs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the energy challenges Americans face today. Since President Bush took office in 2001, gas prices in North Carolina have risen from $1.38 to sometimes over $4.00 per gallon, a staggering increase almost 300%. I will continue to work hard to give our country a more sustainable energy future and to promote cleaner, more efficient technologies, all of which contribute to stronger national security, a growing economy, lower energy costs and U.S. leadership in the fight against global warming.