The New York Times (pg. A24) [Printer-friendly version] December 19, 2007 HOUSE, 314-100, PASSES BROAD ENERGY BILL; BUSH TO SIGN IT TODAY By John M. Broder Legislation that will slowly but significantly change the cars Americans drive, the fuel they burn, the way they light their homes and the price they pay for food cleared the House on Tuesday by a large margin. President Bush said he would sign it on Wednesday. The bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote of 314 to 100, sets higher fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks for the first time in 22 years and requires the annual production of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, a fivefold increase from current ethanol production levels. The measure, the Energy Independence and Security Act, also establishes new efficiency requirements for household appliances and government buildings, and aims to phase out the incandescent light bulb within the next decade. Its passage is one of the largest steps on energy the nation has taken since the oil crises of the 1970s. But its full costs will not be known for years. Critics say it will make cars and trucks less safe and more expensive, divert farmland to costly production of feedstock for ethanol and other synthetic fuels, and raise the price of food because of competition for corn and grain between food producers and fuel refiners. Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the bill as groundbreaking because it will significantly increase the efficiency of the nation's autos, reducing oil imports and cutting production of gases that scientists blame for global warming. The bill requires cars and light trucks sold in the United States to meet a fleetwide average of 35 miles a gallon by 2020. Passage of the bill redeems a promise Democrats made when they retook control of Congress last January. "You are present at a moment of change, of real change," Ms. Pelosi told her House colleagues before the vote. Ms. Pelosi and other supporters of the bill did express disappointment that it does not require utilities to produce a growing share of electric power from renewable sources and that it was stripped of a package of subsidies for wind, solar, geothermal and other alternative energy sources that would have been paid for by billions of dollars in higher taxes on oil companies. Mr. Bush had threatened to veto a bill with those provisions, and the Senate eliminated them before passing the legislation last week. "It could have been stronger," said the chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California. "It's really unfortunate that we didn't have the renewable electricity standard or the incentives for wind and solar. But we'll fight for those another day." The bill's centerpiece is the requirement for a significant increase in corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, which has been 27.5 miles a gallon for cars and 22.2 for light trucks, S.U.V.'s and minivans since 1985, when it was raised administratively. Until now, the standard has not been increased by law since 1975. Early this year, Mr. Bush proposed an ambitious increase in automobile mileage and a surge in production of ethanol and other alternative fuels. This bill achieves similar ends through different means, and the White House expressed satisfaction. "While the president's alternative fuel standard and CAFE proposal would have gone farther and faster," said Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, "we are pleased that Congress has worked together on a bipartisan way that provides the chance for the president to sign a bill that does not include tax increases." The bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy estimates that the mileage requirement and the biofuels provision combined will reduce projected oil consumption by 2.8 million barrels a day by 2020 and five million barrels a day by 2030. The group also says the two measures together will reduce the nation's projected carbon dioxide emissions by 4 percent. The Renewable Fuels Association, which represents distillers of alternative fuels and which lobbied vigorously for the bill, said that if the nation could meet the 36-billion-gallon annual production mandate by 2020, roughly one-sixth of projected gasoline consumption would be replaced with fuels based on corn, switch grass, wood chips and other renewable sources. "At that level of consumption, 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels will effectively drive us through the months of January and February," the group said in a statement. "No oil 'til March." The auto industry, particularly American manufacturers that depend so heavily on truck and S.U.V. sales, had resisted the new efficiency standard but came to support it at the prodding of the automakers' leading champion in Congress, Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan. Chrysler's president, James E. Press, said he welcomed the new legislation and hoped it would remain the single national standard that auto companies must meet. "Now we get some better clarity where the road goes and how steep the hill to climb is going to be, and we're going to have fun," said Mr. Press, formerly Toyota's top executive for North America. "We're committed to meeting these standards and doing our part."