The hallmark achievement for the “New Direction” 110th Congress so far has been passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act, a historic bill that will make America more energy independent, responsive to the global warming crisis, while also continuing to grow our economy.
Record high prices for oil—with prices at the pump more than doubling since 2001 and heating oil costs tripling that of 2001—have added urgency and helped make possible the political change needed to enact new energy policy.
The energy bill Congress approved just before adjourning for the year does four major things: 1) Strengthens our national security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil 2) Reduces emissions that contribute to global warming 3) Lowers energy costs for consumers and 4) Creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs to strengthen our economy.
In terms of strengthening our national security, the Energy Independence and Security Act increases the fuel efficiency standards for automobiles sold in the U.S. to 35 miles per gallon — the first such increase in 32 years. This move will slash U.S. oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels per day by 2030—more than twice the amount we import daily from the Persian Gulf. We also expanded the use of American-grown biofuels by 36 billion gallons, further off-setting the need for foreign oil.
With respect to efforts to combat global warming, the new energy bill cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 24 percent of what the U.S. has determined it needs to do to help save the planet. The increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards will have the equivalent effect of taking 28 million vehicles off the road by 2020. Included in the bill are also increases in the efficiency standards for buildings, homes, appliances, and lighting– reducing harmful greenhouse emissions by as much as 75 percent.
The Energy Independence and Security Act also significantly lowers energy costs for consumers. The average American family will save between $700 and $1,000 a year at the pump, just from increased vehicle fuel efficiency. This will produce an expected $22 billion in net annual savings for consumers by 2020. Additionally, the newly raised building, appliance, and lighting efficiency standards will save consumers another $400 billion through 2030.
One of the arguments against environmentally-friendly public policy is that it would cost Americans jobs. But in the Energy Independence Act, massive development of biofuels and cutting-edge energy research was included, which will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. To help prepare our workforce, the legislation also authorized job training funding for the 3 million new ‘green’ jobs expected to be created over the next 10 years.
This Congress is committed to a “greener” future for our nation and therefore, our planet. It is a matter of national security, the sustainability of our habitat, and the vitality of our economy. This legislation is but a marker for bigger changes to come, signaling that Congress has gotten the message from the American people that the old model is broken and a new way forward must be established in terms of our nation’s energy future.