Energy bill moves to conference committee after Senate passage

| 6/29/2005

Congressional negotiators will now begin working on a compromise version of the energy bill following the Senate’s approval Tuesday of its version of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The bill includes several measures that could affect truckers and the trucking industry, including a provision that would have mandated better fuel mileage for big trucks. Sen. Christopher Bond led the fight against that provision.

Bond, R-MO, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, opposed the mileage amendment, which would have increased non-passenger vehicle fuel economy by 6.5 miles per gallon during the next 11 years and 12.5 miles per gallon for four-wheelers in the same period of time. In its stead, the two senators proposed and passed an amendment that keeps auto standards under the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The energy bill also includes a provision that will increase the length of daylight-saving time across the country. Daylight-saving time currently begins at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ends at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October. The amendment would push the beginning date back to the first Sunday of March and the ending date forward to last Sunday of November.

Under another amendment, owner-operators and fleet owners could receive economic incentives to replace their older trucks, or retrofit them to meet current emissions standards. The amendment would provide up to $1 billion in funding for the project.

A related amendment, known as the Smith-Gordon Amendment, was shot down in the Senate. The amendment would have given a 5 percent tax discount toward the purchase of a 2007-model diesel engine, in an effort to meet emissions standards.

If the bill passes in the senate on Tuesday, it will then go before a joint House and Senate Conference Committee, which is expected to meet this summer, according to media reports. Congress has not approved a comprehensive energy bill for five years.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer