Los Angeles Times (pg. A16)  [Printer-friendly version]
December 19, 2007


The measure imposes fuel-economy standards, reduces greenhouse gas
emissions and dooms the 100-watt lightbulb.

By Richard Simon, Times Staff Writer

Soon, you won't find those old-fashioned 100-watt incandescent light
bulbs in stores. You will be able to buy more energy-efficient
appliances. And you will see labels on TVs and computers that tell you
how much energy they consume.

You will see stickers on new cars that specify not only how many miles
they get per gallon but how much in greenhouse gas emissions they
produce. And when you pull up to the pump, you will fill your car with
a mixture of gasoline and made-in-the-USA biofuel.

Those are some of the ways that the new energy bill will affect
everyday life.

Congress on Tuesday gave final approval to the 822-page measure,
sending it up Pennsylvania Avenue to President Bush
in a Toyota Prius hybrid vehicle. Bush is scheduled to sign the bill,
which includes the first congressional increase in vehicle fuel-
economy standards in 32 years, at a ceremony today at the Energy

Although the tougher vehicle miles-per-gallon rules have grabbed the
headlines, the bill includes a number of lower-profile measures aimed
at reducing U.S. dependence on oil and cutting greenhouse gas

"In this bill, we ban by 2012 the famously inefficient 100-watt
incandescent bulb," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), who co-sponsored
that provision.

The House gave final approval to the measure, 314 to 100. The Senate
approved it last week, 86 to 8. In addition to the 40% increase in
fuel efficiency for new cars and light trucks by 2020, for a fleetwide
average of 35 mpg, the bill requires a fivefold increase -- to 36
billion gallons -- in the amount of alternative home-grown fuels, such
as ethanol, that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply by


Sidebar: Key provisions

The energy bill, which the president plans to sign today, will make
major changes in how the nation consumes fuel. Here's a look at its
key elements:

** Vehicle mileage: Requires automakers to boost fleetwide fuel economy
for cars and light trucks to 35 mpg by 2020.

** Renewable fuels: Calls for a fivefold increase the amount of biofuels,
such as ethanol, added to gasoline, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

** Light bulbs: Phases out most common types of incandescent light bulbs
by 2020, and triples energy efficiency standards.

** Greenhouse gases: Boosts federal research into ways to trap carbon
dioxide emissions from power plants and store them in the earth.

** Green federal buildings: Speeds up use of energy efficiency
technologies and requires new or renovated buildings to use 55% less
fossil fuel by 2010 and 100% less by 2030.

** Geothermal power: Encourages new technologies and creates tax
incentives to expand the use of energy drawn from the Earth's heat.

Source: H.R. 6, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007


Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, said the bill would improve the energy efficiency
of "almost every significant product and tool and appliance that we
use, from light bulbs to light trucks."

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has projected
that the bill will reduce energy use by 7% and carbon dioxide
emissions by 9% in 2030.

The Washington think tank also has estimated it will save consumers
and businesses more than $400 billion between now and 2030,
"accounting for both energy cost savings and the moderately higher
price of energy-efficient products."

Energy analysts project that, although the tougher miles-per-gallon
rules will increase the price of a vehicle an estimated $1,500,
consumers will save $5,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle
once the new standards are fully implemented.

But not everyone agrees about the benefits to consumers.

"The vehicles that are going to be made to meet this 35 mile-per-
gallon standard in the year 2020 are probably going to cost $10,000 to
$15,000 more than they do today," Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, the top
Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during the
House debate. Barton also complained that the bill would raise the
cost of homes, appliances and even light bulbs.

Food industry groups warn that the mandate for increased production of
home-grown fuel, including corn-based ethanol, could drive up food
prices. Scott Faber of the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. said the
renewable fuel standard "won't give us cheaper gas, but it will give
us costlier meat, milk and eggs."

Lowell Ungar, director of policy at the Alliance to Save Energy, a
Washington coalition of business, consumer, environmental and
government leaders, said that more energy-efficient lights bulbs will
be more expensive, but consumers will, over the long run, save money
on their utility bills.

"Consumers spend far more today to run their lightbulbs than they do
to buy them," he said. "If you go out now and replace an incandescent
bulb with a compact fluorescent, it pays for itself in a few months."

Harman's provision would require that by 2020 light bulbs be at least
three times more efficient than current ones. It also includes a
provision that allows California to set stricter energy-efficiency
standards for light bulbs.

Consumers will also be able to learn more about the energy use of
products. The bill requires labels on televisions and computers that
show how much energy they use, a measure supporters hope will spur
manufacturers to make more efficient products.

Another provision requires a "rating system that would make it easy
for consumers to compare the fuel economy and greenhouse gas and other
emissions of automobiles at the point of purchase, including a
designation of automobiles with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions
over the useful life of the vehicles; and the highest fuel economy."

The Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America issued a
statement Tuesday citing the bill's potential to lower consumer costs
but expressed concern about the record of two federal agencies charged
with implementing the law -- the National Highway Transportation
Safety Administration, which implements fuel economy standards, and
the Department of Energy, which implements appliance efficiency

"Congress deserves an initial 'A' for enacting a good new energy law,
but their final grade will be determined by how the executive branch
implements the new standards," said Gene Kimmelman, Consumers Union's
vice president, federal and international affairs.