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Comprehensive Energy and Renewable Fuels Legislation Moves to the Senate Floor

If passed as proposed, S.1419 would approximately double average new light duty vehicle fuel economy by 2030 from today’s level. Click to enlarge.

The US Senate begins debate this week on S.1419, a comprehensive package of energy legislation incorporating a number of previously introduced bills and work from four different Senate committees.

Although the highest-profile aspect of the new legislation may be the proposed increase in the fuel economy of passenger cars and light trucks, the bill contains much more, including: fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks; a 36-billion gallon renewable fuel standard by 2022; mandates on federal building and fleet efficiency; support for carbon capture and sequestration; and support for the development of energy storage systems and electric vehicles.

Fuel economy standards. For light-duty vehicles, the bill mandates an average fuel economy for new cars and light trucks (up to 10,000 lbs) of 35 mpg US by 2020.  The Department of Transportation (through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA) would establish average fuel economy standards in each model year beginning with model year 2011 to achieve the 35 mpg target. For model years 2021 through 2030, the average fuel economy will need to increase at least 4% over the level of the prior year (rounded to the nearest 1/10 mile per gallon).

That structure would result in 2030 light-duty new vehicle fleet economy of approximately 52 mpg (4.5 liters/100km)—slightly more than doubling the 2006 average of 25.4 mpg (combined cars and trucks).

I know that the auto industry is still wavering on this issue.  I met with the CEOs of the big three automakers last week, and here is what I told them:  The debate on raising CAFE standards should be over. It will happen.

—Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader

For medium- and heavy-duty trucks, NHTSA would first establish baseline fuel economy standards, then increase those standards by 4% per year over the previous year.

The legislation allows NHTSA to develop the standards using a vehicle attribute system and to express the standards in the form of a mathematical function. The Secretary of Transportation has the discretion to lower the rate of improvement of the fuel economy standard for passenger cars and light, medium and heavy duty trucks, if analysis leads to the conclusion that the cost-effectiveness and maximum feasible level of improvement is less than 4% for that model year.

NHTSA would also have to initiate a rulemaking in 2010 to issue standards to mitigate the difference in weight and size between the largest and smallest vehicles, and to improve bumper height compatibility between vehicles.

The legislation also mandates a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study to update the 2002 NAS fuel economy technology study from 2002 and to evaluate how the technologies could be integrated to meet the reformed fuel economy attribute system.  The study is to be commissioned as soon as feasible, and the NAS must report its findings with 18 months of the study being commissioned.  The study will be updated every five years.

The proposed legislation also enables the establishment of a fuel economy credit trading program to allow manufacturers whose automobiles exceed the average fuel economy standards to earn credits to be sold to manufacturers whose automobiles fail to achieve the prescribed standards.  Automakers may carry forward earned fuel economy credits for 5 years as opposed to the 3 years as currently permitted.

Biofuels. The bill establishes a renewable fuels standard of 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. The standard includes a requirement for advanced biofuels, which does not include ethanol derived from corn starch, to meet 60% of the total renewable fuel requirement by 2022.  The bill includes incentives for advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, such as grants for infrastructure development, and financial support for research and development.

The bill provides funding for the development of alternative fuel infrastructure and pilot production programs, and at least 11 bioenergy research centers.

It also calls for a study into the feasibility of using ethanol-gasoline blends of up to 40% (E40) and the feasibility of ethanol pipelines.

Among the other provisions of the bill is the call for a study evaluating current methods for lifecycle analysis (LCA) of fuels and recommending a method for performing a simplified, streamlined LCA of the fossil and renewable carbon content of biofuels.

High Efficiency Vehicles, Advanced Batteries, and Energy Storage. Among the initiatives in this section of the bill is an immediate R&D program focused on lightweight materials such as steel alloys, fiberglass, and carbon composites) to enable weight reduction in vehicles to improve fuel efficiency without compromising safety, and to reduce the cost of those materials.

The bill establishes an incentive program for the manufacture of advanced technology vehicles—vehicles that meet Tier 2 Bin 5 or better emissions standards, at that achieved at least 125% of the average base year fuel economy, calculated on an energy-equivalent basis, for vehicles of a substantially similar footprint.

For energy storage, the bill directs the Department of Energy to establish a research, development, and demonstration program to support the ability of the United States to remain globally competitive in energy storage systems for motor transportation and electricity transmission and distribution.

The $500-million basic research program is to include materials design; materials synthesis and characterization; electrolytes, including bioelectrolytes; surface and interface dynamics; and modeling and simulation. The $800-million applied research program is to include ultracapacitors; flywheels; batteries; compressed air energy systems; power conditioning electronics; and manufacturing technologies for energy storage systems.

The DOE is to establish through competitive bids 4 energy storage research centers to translate basic research into applied technologies. This is envisioned to be a $1-billion program.


The bill also directs the DOE to establish a competitive program to provide grants for demonstrations of electric drive vehicles.

This section of the bill also sets a US goal for gasoline reduction from projected levels by 20% by calendar year 2017; 35% by calendar year 2025; and by 45% by calendar year 2030. 

Carbon Capture & Storage Research, Development, and Demonstration. The bill amends the  the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to focus on demonstration of CCS technologies, not just research and development. It calls for: the promotion of regional carbon sequestration partnerships to conduct geologic sequestration tests involving carbon dioxide in a variety of geological settings;  at least seven initial large-volume sequestration tests for geological containment of carbon dioxide; conduct a national assessment of geologic storage capacity; and implementation a new large-scale commercial carbon capture demonstration program.

Energy Efficiency. The bill sets new efficiency standards for new incandescent and fluorescent light, for heating and cooling and water-using products, residential boilers and home appliances. It also requires all general purpose replacement lighting in Federal buildings to be Energy Star products.

Each Federal agency will need to achieve at least a 20% reduction in consumption of petroleum by 2015, and increase alternative fuel consumption by 10% annually. All Federal buildings will need to reduce energy consumption by 30% by 2015. The Federal government will have to obtain not less than 15% of its electricity from renewable resources. 




CAFE level has not been raised in 25 years !!!
Why would this Congress & the Murican peepul suddenly grow some Balls & Brains?


They've always had both ... they've just been mired (and maybe still are) in big lobbies with big money for big elections that cost a fortune to win. I think they're finally starting to wake up.


Let's see if people actually are interested in adapting to a changing world. Otherwise it's comforting entropy for all!


No politician should ever be allowed to serve more than one term in any elective office.


Harry Reid just made a speech stating that if the auto companies in the U.S. had worked with Congress on fuel economy in the past, that they might not be in the financial mess they are now....I can only agree.

They go for what maximizes profits in the short term. Ford makes a ton on the Explorer, buys Jaguar, gas goes to $3 and today asks investment bankers to look into selling Jaguar. Not exactly visionary management at Ford.


NO VEHICLE REBATES!?!?!? What are they thinking?!?!

What we really need is large tax rebates for those who purchase electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and highly-efficient gasoline/diesel vehicles, or alternative fuel vehicles (not sure how you to handle an E85 vehicle that will actually use gasoline 99% of the time.) The amount of the rebate for an electric vehicle might be $5,500. A Chevy Volt might be $4,500 and a Prius $3,000.
I'd fund these rebates by increasing the gas tax periodically until the entire U.S. automotive fleet is EV, PHEV, HEV, or alternative.
We simply MUST get off imported oil and really, ultimately, we must make oil nearly irrelevant in the world economy. If oil was a cheap commodity (i.e. salt) that was barely profitable to sell, then the entire terrorism thing would be much, much less of a problem in the future.


Jaguar Resurrection Prize

Okay GCC - here's a (real) hypothetical challenge: Given a substantial fund to use for design, materials and implementation (not R&D) what would you do to build a Jaguar that combines GCC goals, with state of the art propulsion technology? The car must compete directly with the Tesla - it just has to be provably better to win the prize.

I would suggest a serial hybrid with ultra clean diesel genset optional FC or Sterling with LNG. 35kW Li Altair battery pack with AI control electronics TBD. 50 mile all BEV range - extended to 400 with B85 or the H2 FC.

I know many will dismiss this as a silly exercise - but we kinda think that's how great stuff gets done. How 'bout you?

Payout is one million Euros.


gr: The styling of a classic Jag, 4 in wheel motors (at least 400kw total with suspension in wheel). 50kwh electric storage (eestor? ;) Electronic wheel control, full regen brakes. Simplicity, elegance and fun.


Its not the car makers fault that for decades cities have refused to ensure more then enough housing of all quality levels and of high safety close to all the jobs they have bloated thier coffers with tax wise.

Its not thier fault that because of politicians and special interests americans now run a maze od insanely designed freewats and roadways that force tensof millions to dangerously vanuver amoung massive haulers.. not just a few times.. but everwhere.

Its not the car makers fault that even a car strong enough to hit a house at 100 mph without death to the driver.. still feels vulnerableon todays roads.

Its not he car makers fault that even with more hp then any racer of the 40s.. a car still somehow needs even more power to manage deadly merge lanes and criminaly dangerous trafficpatterns.

Its not the carmakers fault that carbuyers fear death far more then banruptcy even at 4 bucks a gallon.

Rafael Seidl

@gr: check out

GBP 150k for a BEV with 700hp total and 4x750Nm torque is seriously expensive compared to a Tesla. But that's what this company is looking to price its products at, possibly because the AltariNano batteries are so expensive compared to Tesla's approach.

Bob Bastard

Rafael, I looked at that car last night, and I must say I was pretty impressed with all the features except one: The "Programmable external engine sound generator" literally made me laugh out loud. All I can think of is a small child on his tricycle twisting an imaginary throttle and going "brum! brum!"


I'd love to have one of those on my e-cycle. It's so quiet that people jump out of their skins when I go by them. I'd love to program in the sound of a little kid going vroom vroom.


Regarding Rebates- it sure would be nice if there were rebates for electric vehicle conversion. In the tax form, there are lots of exclusions and deductions for electric vehicles, but you can't even buy one of those. But if you go to the trouble into making one, you get nothing.

Backwards in my opinion.


The loopholes in this thing are so large you can drive a Chevy Suburban through them.

1. Secretary of Transportation can just cancel it for any given year.

2. Goals are based against projected consumption. Raise the projection, you win automatically.

3. Must "mitigate the difference in weight" between the smallest and largest vehicles. OK, make small cars heavier.

There will never be another chance like this one (we hope - after all, I suppose we can just do nothing and make it all much worse). We should be looking for things that really execute the goals: less oil consumed, less greenhouse gases emitted.

The key is objective goals that cannot be waived by the regulators: Tight CAFE standards, lighter vehicles, new drivetrains in mass distribution, truly renewable alternative fuels, and complete elimination of any biases in favor of large vehicles, such as the 6000+ lb tax break and the safety testing standards that reward mass rather than design.

The really painful thing is how easily we could cut consumption by 3-5% per year, over ten years. Diesels, mild hybrids, and minivans substituted for SUVs could all be implemented in 1-3 years. PHEVs and Serial HEVs in 5 years. It could all be done so fast, and so well.


If it costs me more Money,I don't wanna hear about it.
To pay for it,I gotta work harder,which causes more Pollution,which is going in the wrong Direction.


Neil - Playing cards and clothespins work for me.

Gerald Shields

No rebates for fuel-efficient vehicles and no taxes on gas guzzlers to help pay for the rebates.

Stan Peterson

Nominal CAFE for non trucks has not been changed in a lots of years. But actual CAFE mileage has been increased by changing and toughening the measures which determine the 27.5 mpg CAFE.

Plus the truck CAFE standard is fairly new.

I don't even mind the new CAFE standards being proposed as they are totally inoffensive. Raiing CAFE from 24.5 to 35 mmpg results in a saving of about 5% of the present daily consumption. Big Deal. Saving one million barrels a day in 2030 when we consume 20 million barrels per day in 2007, is helpful but marginal, at best.

Automotive designs and the markets will outstrip these "Feel Good nonsense" laws offered by loud-mouth politicians. Long before 2030 these CAFE targets will be hopelessly irrelevant. As long as the politicians don't accept impossibilities like the CARBites of California did before and are doing once again, it can't hurt. (or help either).

Stan Peterson

There is a technology that is Bengt adopted but could use a boost to speed further implementation. Clean Coal using the IGCC has a higher thermal efficiency than any other coal powered electric generation facility. It is also the only one that is easy to add CO2 Capture and Sequestration equipment as an intrinsic feature.

Although the most efficient. its slightly larger capital cost makes the choice marginal and not clearly beneficial. If the Senate bill wasn't just talking about demonstrations of CCS but actually taxed all new coal plants and rebated it to those utilities that invest in CCS, it would tip many a coal plant building decision toward using IGCC/CCS technology.

Here is a case of where a small push would actually help...

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