Congress Takes a New Look at Efficiency

With new leadership in both houses for the first time in 12 years, members and committees have been actively exploring new energy policy ideas, including many on energy efficiency. A few highlights from the first three months:

  • Tax rollbacks—the House in January passed a bill reversing tax incentives for fossil fuel producers; it is estimated that these would produce about $14 billion in tax revenues over 10 years. The Senate, however, has not taken up a similar measure; therefore it is unclear whether or not these changes will become law. If they were to be enacted, they could support substantial increases in appropriations and tax incentives for efficiency and other clean energy technologies.
  • Budgets—Congress passed a Continuing Resolution for the remainder of FY 2007 that contained a $300 million increase over 2006 levels, about a 25% increase in funding for efficiency and renewables. However, the Administration programmed most of this money for a few priorities (hydrogen, biofuels, and solar), leaving efficiency funding close to FY 2006 levels. The budget request for FY 2008 (which begins October 1, 2007) showed a continuing and disappointing decline in efficiency funding, a drop of some 26% since FY 2002 after inflation. Encouragingly, the Senate Budget Committee passed a budget resolution that allocates about $400 million above 2006 levels. ACEEE recommended in its appropriations comments that some $217 of this be spent on key efficiency programs in the vehicles, buildings, industry, distributed energy, and related programs.
  • Standards—The Senate Energy Committee is preparing a bill to be introduced soon, and the Speaker of the House has asked for an