Sunday, December 16, 2007

Energy Bill Passed But is it a Good Thing?

The Senate overwhelmingly approved an energy bill on Thursday which will require auto makers to manufacture higher-mileage automobiles and consumers to use ethanol-based fuel over regular gasoline.

The Democrats opposed the bill and wanted oil companies to pay more taxes but they were over-ridden by the Republicans and the new energy bill swept in like a typhoon 86-8. Many said that the Democrats did not push hard enough. This bill mandates that these measures take place in 10 years.

Not only will this energy bill most likely put more Americans out of work in the auto industry (unless you build hybrid Toyota's or Honda's) but ethanol is untested in higher quantities and is currently only approved for a 10% mixture level to be blended with gasoline. Yet the new energy bill calls for blends of 30% ethanol.

Note that drawbacks of higher ethanol-based fuel is that vehicles need to be able to use it (duh), are harder to start in cold weather, have a reduced per tank mileage, and require more frequent oil changes using a special oil.

Five members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member, and Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Benjamin L. Cardin (D - MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Susan M. Collins (R - ME), all recognized the problem of increased ethanol without EPA approval and had written a letter to Bush requesting that he "carefully evaluate and respond to unintended public health and safety risks that could result from the increased use of ethanol as a ‘general purpose’ transportation fuel.”

The Senators point out that "there is little available data on the emission, air quality, public health, or safety impacts of mid-level ethanol." They are also concerned that higher levels of ethanol could lead to vehicle and equipment problems "on starting, durability, operation, performance, and operator safety, due to the degradation of critical components and safety devices."

Good points indeed and I hope that they receive a response!

Even with the concerns regarding vehicles and equipment there are still the issues about public health that need answers. It wouldn't be very surprising that, as government officials are pushing this as a remedy, in reality, they are opening up a dozen other problems...

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