Decent energy bill poised for passage

A new energy bill is on its way, and — mirabile dictu! — it ain’t bad. Some greens have grumbled about its shortcomings, but as David Roberts points out, for the first time in a long time there’s more to celebrate than to criticize.

Headlines:

  • The first CAFE increases in over twenty years. American passenger vehicles will have to average 35 miles to the gallon by 2020.
  • A requirement that the U.S. derive 15% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Lots of money for clean energy.
  • Unfortunately, lots of money for biofuels.

One of the more notable aspects of the CAFE changes is how thoroughly the opposition to tighter automotive fuel efficiency standards got steamrollered. The Big Three automakers fought this bitterly. John Dingell fought this bitterly. And they all got pretty close to squat for their efforts. You couldn’t really ask for a clearer demonstration of the increased legislative might of the green lobby.

An aside: one of the arguments against CAFE made by automakers is that the rules rob consumers of choice. Arguably this is actually the point of CAFE regulation. Consumers are “robbed” of the choice to drive incredibly inefficient vehicles.

But it’s not even clear that this is true. As we’ve noted here before, some research suggests that Americans really would like to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, if only Detroit would build them. It’s a bit of a mystery why a market inefficiency like this would persist, but I suspect that the greener vehicles will find happy buyers.

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