WASHINGTON, D.C. — The energy bill approved by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce on Thursday, July 12, demonstrates an ambivalence toward energy efficiency that is out of step with the American public. While poll after poll has shown strong support for measures that promote more efficient use of energy, the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality has written a bill that proclaims: "We're lukewarm on saving energy." The subcommittee has taken a babystep toward improved energy efficiency at a time when the U.S should be taking great strides.
In virtual party line votes, the subcommittee rejected two amendments (Markey - SEER 13 air conditioner standard; Markey - other appliance efficiency standards) that would have doubled the energy savings that can be expected from the bill. In the face of this intransigence by the majority of the subcommittee, two other amendments (Waxman - Smart Energy Investment Fund; Markey - CAFE standards increase) that would have increased the bill's energy savings ten-fold were offered and withdrawn. Our analysis shows that the bill as approved will reduce U.S. energy use by only about 0.6 % over the next 18 years. With the strengthening amendments mentioned above, these savings would have increased to 6% of U.S. energy use.
The subcommittee's action falls far short of securing the energy savings that are technically, economically, and politically possible for the nation. Unless the subcommittee's action is unexpectedly reversed by the full Energy & Commerce Committee next week, the burden of producing a balanced energy policy will now fall more heavily on the full House of Representatives and the Senate. Such tepid action in response to current conditions suggests that our energy problems will get worse before they get better.