Bipartisan efficiency bill heads long list of new energy measures

Correction appended.

Senators yesterday floated a host of energy bills before leaving town for a week away from Washington.

Chief among them is a bipartisan measure from Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would update legislation introduced last Congress to strengthen and improve energy efficiency standards for consumer products like furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers and dryers, and dishwashers.

The measure, S. 398, also would create new standards for certain outdoor lighting, pool heaters, drinking water dispensers and commercial food cabinets, among others.

The legislation draws from language included in the broad energy bill passed by the Energy Committee last Congress. It also expands on separate legislation (S. 3925) that narrowly failed in the Senate late last year.


The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy says the measure would save the nation enough energy each year to power 4.6 million households.

"Greater energy efficiency saves consumers money, strengthens our economy, enhances our national security, creates jobs, and reduces environmental impacts," Bingaman said in a statement. "No single program or policy is going to completely end our nation's waste of energy or restore our economic competitiveness, but increased energy efficiency through cost-effective energy standards for appliances and consumer products remains one of the most powerful tools for meeting these goals."

The measure has broad support from environmental groups, consumer advocates and appliance manufacturers.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the measure would save consumers some $43 billion, 5 trillion gallons of water and 47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide over the next two decades.

The measure "would save consumer[s] billions of dollars on their energy bills, while providing manufacturers the certainty they need to invest. It really is a win-win," NRDC energy efficiency advocate Meg Waltner wrote in a blog posting.

Spotlight on incandescents

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) yesterday led a group of 27 Republicans in floating a measure that would prohibit Congress from turning the lights off on incandescent light bulbs.

Enzi's measure (S. 395) would repeal light bulb standards included in a broad 2007 energy law that phase out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient compact fluorescents, halogens and LEDs. The law requires the phase-out of 100-watt incandescent bulbs by the end of this year, and it would ultimately end the use of 40-watt incandescents by the end of 2013.

"I think it's fine if someone wants to fill their home or business with the light from the new bulbs. I also think it is fine if someone wants to buy an old-fashioned bulb because it works better for them," Enzi said in a statement. "If left alone, the best bulb will win its rightful standing in the marketplace. Government doesn't need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use."

The light bulb issue has become contentious among lawmakers in recent months. A similar GOP measure has been introduced in the House by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and others. The issue played a factor in the hotly contested race for the House Energy and Commerce gavel last fall, which Barton lost to Michigan Rep. Fred Upton. Upton was chided by more conservative members of his party for having supported the measure when it originally passed in 2007.

Enzi also introduced separate legislation (S. 397) yesterday that would exempt hospitals, schools, day care centers, mental health facilities and nursing homes from any federal lighting requirement if the alternative lighting contains mercury. Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) has introduced a companion measure in the House.

Other bills

Senators floated a handful of other energy measures yesterday.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced S. 383, which would promote the domestic production of rare earth minerals.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee drafted legislation (S. 400) that would ensure electricity rates are assessed in proportion to measurable reliability or economic benefit.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced language (S. 405) dealing with leasing requirements for oil and gas drillers on the outer continental shelf.

And Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) floated a measure (S. 394) that would make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal.

Correction: An earlier version identified the lawmakers who drafted S. 400 as Republicans; the group that introduced the bill also contained a Democrat.

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