Sanders touts energy bill efficiency standards

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says a new energy bill just passed by the U.S. Senate will help save consumers money when it’s fully implemented because the plan substantially raises fuel efficiency standards.

But the overall bill doesn’t go as far as some renewable energy advocates were hoping.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The key part of the legislation increases the average mileage of new cars and trucks by 2020.

Currently the average is around 25 miles per gallon – this bill raises that threshold to 35 miles per gallon.

The measure also includes new funds for energy efficient community block grant programs and it finances new employment training programs for the renewable energy industry.

Sanders is the only member of the Senate who serves on the three major committees that reviewed the legislation. He co-sponsored the so called green collar jobs initiative and the block grants for cities and towns:

(Sanders) “On balance given the fact that in our country we waste so much energy and given the fact that we are way behind many other countries in terms of moving forward with solar technology, with wind technology, this is a major step forward. It’s going to save consumers money at the gas pump. It is going to provide incentives for us to move to sustainable energy.”

(Kinzel) Some critics of the bill argue that raising fuel efficiency standards will increase the cost of buying a car. Sanders refutes that argument:

(Sanders) “That is what Detroit has always said and yet somehow or another automobile manufacturers in Europe, in China and Japan are able to manufacture cars that get a lot better mileage per gallon. I think, sadly, Detroit has been almost Neanderthal throughout the entire effort. We have not raised standards in over 20 years. And the cars were driving today; in many cases get worse mileage per gallon than was the case 20 years ago. That’s just unacceptable.”

(Kinzel) James Moore is the energy director at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He’s disappointed that the Senate rejected a plan to eliminate nearly $30 billion in special tax credits for the major oil companies.

Moore is also concerned by the defeat of a provision that would have required all utilities to get 15% of their overall power from renewable sources by 2020:

(Moore) “The problem with this bill is that it’s lacking anything to move our electricity future forward. It’s lacking anything to get rid of billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer subsidies to the oil industry. And it’s lacking anything that kind of shows that leadership and desire at the federal level. It’s really leaving it up to the states like Vermont.”

(Kinzel) The measure now goes to the House for its consideration. Moore is hopeful that House members will restore both the tax plan on oil companies and the renewable energy portfolio standard.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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