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House and Senate Bills Target Oil Consumption, Promote Fuel Efficiency and Alt Fuels

Bipartisan groups in the House and Senate today introduced their own versions of bills designed to reduce the consumption of oil through the promotion of fuel-efficient vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, and alternative fuels, primarily ethanol. (Earlier post.)

The Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act, introduced by Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), mandates a reduction in oil consumption of 2.5 million barrels per day by 2016, 7 million barrels per day by 2026 and 10 million barrels per day by 2031.

The Senate bill sets targets for manufacturers to produce flexible fuel vehicles (FFV), alternative fueled vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell vehicles or other qualified vehicles that meet a performance standard of 175% of average fleet fuel economy—starting at 10% in 2012 and rising to 50% in 2016. After 2016 at least 10% of the 50% requirement must be met by hybrids, advanced diesels, plug-in hybrids and other non-FFV vehicles.

The bill also requires the Secretary of Energy to issue regulations for federal and state fleets covered by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to reduce petroleum consumption by 30% from a 1999 baseline by FY2016. It requires 30% of federal fleet requirement (22.5%-25% of the total fleet requirement) to be met by advanced diesels, hybrids or plug-in hybrids in 2016. Allows electric drive technology vehicles (hybrids) to qualify under the Federal Fleet requirements of EPAct.

To support the development of more fuel efficient vehicles, the bill:

  • Provides retooling tax credits for manufacturers and suppliers of advanced diesels and hybrids (Nearly identical to Levin-Bayh amendment to the energy bill);

  • Creates a tire efficiency program for tires used on light duty vehicles;

  • Creates a fuel economy testing program and the implementation of efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles (trucks, buses, etc);

  • Lifts the per manufacturer cap on consumer tax credits for the purchase of hybrids and advanced diesels;

  • Provides a tax credit for large private fleets for purchasing more efficient vehicles for their fleets;

  • Creates an R&D program for electric drive transportation and light-weight materials;

  • Encourages local educational agencies to develop a policy to reduce the incidence of school bus idling; and

  • Closes the SUV tax loophole which adversely encourages small businesses to purchase SUVs over other vehicles.

On the issue of fuels, the bill:

  • Increases the ethanol infrastructure tax credit to 50%;

  • Uses CAFE penalties to fund DOE ethanol infrastructure grants program;

  • Changes the authorization for production incentives for cellulosic ethanol to $200 million for five years;

  • Sets an additional near-term benchmark for the use of cellulosic ethanol as part of the renewable fuels standard included in the 2005 Energy Policy Act; and

  • Creates a grant program to encourage new mass transit facilities and to build commercial developments around them.

The bill also provides funding for public education.

The House version of the bill, the Fuel Choices for American Security Act, introduced by Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Jack Kingston (R-GA), has a slightly different timetable on oil reduction, seeking a 2.5 million barrel per day drop by 2015 and 5 million barrels per day by 2025.

Further detail on the House bill to come.



Miyoshi Chen

"To grow enough biomass to enable ethanol to replace gasoline would require an enormous amount of land. To provide sufficient ethanol to replace all of the 130 billion gallons of gasoline used in the light-duty fleet, we estimate that it would be necessary to process the biomass growing on 300 million to 500 million acres, which is in the neighborhood of one-fourth of the 1.8-billion acre land area of the lower 48 states. Most U.S. land is now grassland pasture and range (590 million acres), forest (650 million acres), or cropland (460 millions acres). The remaining acreage is used for human infrastructure, parks and wildlife areas, and marsh and wetlands. The 300 million to 500 million acres could be supplied from high-productivity land (39 million acres of idled cropland), from land currently used to grow grain that is sold below production cost (approximately 45 million acres), and from pasture and forestland that are not associated with farms. No land from national parks, wilderness areas, or land for buildings, highways, or other direct human use would be required." - from The Ethanol Answer to Carbon Emissions published in Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2001

Adam H.

Care to elaborate on what the above means?

I think cellulistic ethanol holds much more promise and will require much less acreage as it will utilize yard waste etc.


Lifts the per manufacturer cap on consumer tax credits for the purchase of hybrids and advanced diesels;

This one surprised me. As you may recall, the previous limit was so low that the Prius and Civic would hit their limit around March, whereas the Escape wouldn't hit until years end. This lower limit was percieved as a way to "throw a bone" to US hybrid makers, since they just didn't have the popularity yet. Increasing that limit shows that the House bill is, in part, interested in better MPG regardless of which country makes money helping to make that happen.

Closes the SUV tax loophole which adversely encourages small businesses to purchase SUVs over other vehicles.

'Bout damn time. There's this strange phenomonon where people took the 6,000lb+ vehicle tax credit, but then drove their vehicles (not on business) on their neighborhood roads, which generally restrict 3 ton + trucks to business trips only.

As for the ethanol -- most of the "yard waste" will be of the agricultrual variety -- corn shuck, etc. Even if we could only supplement a few percent of our oil consumption, shouldn't we do it? Methinks the answer is yes.


One thing I think we need to remember about bio-diseal and ethanol...the more we make, the better and more efficient we will get at making it. There are advancements all the time.


I notice that miyoshi's quote didn't exclude national forests. Does this mean we will be laying waste to our forests? No thanks.

Part of the equation favoring ethanol is that it gets a credit for carbon uptake. Since our forests are currently converting carbon in quantity, I don't think this carbon uptake credit should be applied in any analysis.

In any event, we shouldn't be talking about replacing 130 billion gallons; we should be talking about at least cutting our fuel consumption in half.


Again, the Rocky Mountain Institute did a recent analysis regarding the "ethanol uses more energy to produce it than it gives back" argument and found it totally false.

You can see it here:

Harvey D

Tad W. Patzek and David Pimentel have recently published their extensive manuscripts on the Thermodynamics of Energy Production from Biomass and from Corn-Ethanol to prove that ethanol derived from biomass is a net energy loser when the (free) sun's energy to grow the feedstock and all other inputs are included. However, when the sun's (free) energy is discounted, ethanol produced from selected feedstocks can have a positive energy balance depending on the process used and even much more so with cellulosic ethanol.

Cellulosic ethanol should definately be favoured because appropiate easy to grow feedstock, with twice the energy density, would use less land area and can be grown in marginal areas without competing with food crops. Also, useless wastes from various sources could be used, cleaning up the country side as a side bebefit.

One major very positive aspect of the proposed law is the promotion of more efficient vehicles, including PHEVs, to reduce the overall fuel consumption. Replacing existing 15 mpg gas guzzlers with 60 mpg hybrids or efficient diesels would make a major difference. The introduction of PHEVs in large numbers would do even better.

Cellulosic ethanol coupled with PHEVs (with 40 to 60 miles on electric mode) could reduce OIL imports to almost zero within 20-25 years without using any useful crop lands.

Extra electrical energy, to recharge the PHEVs, will have to be produced. Clean Wind and Sun power should be used and should have been included in this new law. Nuclear power is a worthwhile alternative-complement but COAL should be excluded until such time as we can use it without creating massive pollution.

All above changes do not come free and a new fossil fuel tax should be introduced to finance the transistion cost and convince users to buy efficient vehicles. This will also have to be included, sooner or latter, in the law.


RMI argues that Primentel is wrong:

"Critics further discount cellulosic ethanol by ignoring the recent advancements of next-generation ethanol conversion technologies. A recent example that has received significant attention is David Pimentel's March 2005 paper in Natural Resources Research, which argues that ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks requires more fossil energy to produce than the energy contained in the final product. However, Pimentel bases his analysis on only one technology used to produce ethanol, ignoring two other developing technologies. His chosen conversion technology, acid hydrolosis, is the least efficient of the three. "

Jesse Jenkins

"RMI argues that Primentel is wrong"

So does Argonne National Labs, here [long version] and here [short power point version]. So do eight other peer reviewed studies in the last 4 years.

Finally - and we've all heard this before but it doesnt seem to be enough to silence the Pimentel-junkies - it makes little sense to simply talk about EROI for ethanol in a vacuum. Energy fuel needs to be compared to the fuel it is designed to replace or other competitors that are vying to replace it. The Argonne slideshow above argues that production of gasoline is ALSO energy negative. Read some other reports. Pimentel has been beating his dead horse in a new study every few years and he has repeadedly been rebutted.


Mike, it would make sense to link to the status page on this bill in the resources section:


Thanks! Done!


"Extra electrical energy, to recharge the PHEVs, will have to be produced. Clean Wind and Sun power should be used and should have been included in this new law. Nuclear power is a worthwhile alternative-complement but COAL should be excluded until such time as we can use it without creating massive pollution."

Yes, indeed. PHEVs + nuclear + renewables is the answer to energy independence, and creates a post-fossil-fuel energy complex that is fully sustainable. See

my proposal on nuclear energy and PHEVs

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