The U.S. House passed an energy bill Thursday afternoon that raises vehicle fuel-economy standards, requires the use of more biofuels, provides tax incentives for renewable energy and adds a national renewable portfolio standard, among other greentech-friendly moves.
The bill raises the corporate average fuel economy for vehicles -- for the first time since 1975 -- to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. It requires the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, with 21 billion of those gallons coming from nonfood sources.
The bill requires utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources. It also adds about $21.5 billion in tax incentives for renewables over the next decade, paid in part by a repeal of $13 billion in tax subsidies for oil and gas producers.
Environmentalists praised the bill, which passed by a vote of 235 to 181.
"Lawmakers sent a clear signal that we Americans believe that technology and innovation will break our oil dependence, insulate us against rising energy prices and fight global warming," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a written statement. "It's the boldest, most responsible bill of its kind in a generation."
"Hooray!" said Jonathan Bonanno, chair of the Keiretsu Forum's Cleantech Investment Committee. "Now comes the tough part -- the Senate."
Solar and wind companies were worried in November, when it seemed the House would pull the tax incentives and the renewable portfolio standard from the bill (see Renewable Tax Credit and Portfolio Standard Could Get Cut from Energy Bill).
But now that those provisions have been included, some industry insiders worry the bill will get held up in the Senate or vetoed by President Bush. After all, the White House has warned that a bill that raises taxes or sets a portfolio standard could face a veto (see Will Greentech Get Anything From the Energy Bill?).
Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute and a Greentech Media partner, pointed out that the House already passed these elements in its original bill.
The Senate passed a different bill, which didn't include the tax credit, portfolio standard and other elements, and the two sides have informally been working to reconcile the two bills. Unless the bill passes the Senate and avoids a veto, it will not take effect.
"It doesn't seem like anything's changed," Bradford said. "They can talk about it all they want, but they've been talking about it for six months. It doesn't feel like anybody's doing anything."
An email from Adam Browning, a co-founder of solar-advocacy group Vote Solar, indicated the group is preparing for war as the bill moves to the Senate.
Referring to a quote in Energy and Environment Daily from Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., opposing the bill and claiming "we have no alternative but to have war," Browning urged solar supporters in areas represented by Republican senators to call them.
"Seriously," he wrote. "Domenici just dared you. All but called you a punk. Pretty much spat in your general direction. You going to take that lying down?"