While Congress and the Administration are not demonstrating much leadership overall on energy efficiency, several important issues hang in the balance this fall:
- Energy Bill. Currently stalled in controversy over fuel-additive MTBE, pork barrel issues, and environmental concerns, the omnibus bill seems unlikely to pass in its present form. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Domenici developed a modestly streamlined version of the bill this year, but it has not passed either. Meanwhile, ACEEE continues to negotiate with manufacturers and other stakeholders to expand the list of products covered by appliance standards in this bill or a smaller successor. Tax credits may also move separately-see next item.
- Tax Incentives. A major trade-related "must-pass" tax bill is likely to pass this week. The bill (H.R. 4250/S. 1637) may be an opportunity for the tax provisions of the energy bill to be enacted. The Senate version of the bill contains the efficiency credits that the Senate Finance Committee agreed to last year, including incentives for combined heat and power, residential heating and hot water equipment, new and existing homes, and efficient vehicles. However, the House version contains no efficiency provisions. Conferees will meet this week.
- Budget. It appears that Congress will pass continuing resolutions to fund the government through November 20, meaning that FY 2005 appropriations will be finalized in a post-election "lame duck" session or later. The picture for efficiency funding is mixed: the House marked a $3 million (<1%) increase over 2004 levels, and the Senate recommended a $24 million (3%) cut. For individual programs, there was no consistent pattern: the Senate supported some programs above the request, and the House pushed others.
More information on the status of legislation can be found at http://www.aceee.org/energy/legsttus.htm.