President to sign Energy Bill next week

| Wednesday, August 03, 2005

President Bush plans to sign the long-awaited Energy Bill on Monday, Aug. 8, despite high expectations that he would approve it over the past weekend.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Bush will sign the bill from Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, as a show of appreciation for two U.S. Senators who were instrumental in gaining approval for the bill.

The Senate approved the far-reaching legislation – the first of its kind in nearly five years – on Friday, July 29. The House of Representatives voted in favor of the sprawling, 1,725-page version of the bill on Thursday, July 28. The legislation contains a number of measures that could affect the trucking industry.

The president had asked for a final version of the bill by Saturday, Aug. 1, before the legislature departed for its five-week summer recess. The House approved its version of the bill on April 27, and the Senate on June 28. The conference committee has been ironing out the differences since then.

One of the biggest missing items from the final bill is a provision that would’ve authorized oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House approved the measure in its version of the bill in April, but it was not in the final conference committee version.

The use of biofuels was also addressed in the bill. By 2012, all refineries must include 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels in the nation’s fuel supplies, although sources in Washington said the measure is aimed more at increased ethanol production than biodiesel.

Another section of the bill authorizes approximately $95 million in the next three years for the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, to “establish a program to support deployment of idle reduction and energy conservation technologies.”

Sen. Christopher Bond. R-MO and Sen. Carl Levin led the opposition of an amendment, which led to the eventual demise of the measure that would have required manufacturers to virtually double fuel mileage for big rigs. It would have mandated a 6.5-mile-per-gallon increase for non-passenger vehicles in the next 11 years and an increase of 12.5 miles per gallon for four-wheelers in the same time frame.

Instead, Bond and Levin proposed and gained approval of an amendment that keeps auto standards under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authority.

However, another amendment that would benefit truckers survived the conference committee negotiations. The measure, sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich, R-OH, provides for truck owners to receive part of a fund totaling $1 billion to replace their older trucks, or retrofit them to meet emissions standards.

The Energy Bill also includes a provision to increase the length of daylight-saving time, which currently begins on the first Sunday of April and ends on the last Sunday of October. The amendment adds one month to the current plan by pushing the beginning date back to the second Sunday of March and the ending date to first Sunday of November.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer