U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said today that last night’s Senate passage of the CLEAN Energy Act would put the nation closer to energy independence and cleaner air while providing a boost for Tennessee automakers and farmers.
“This bill is a critical step for America to take towards weaning ourselves from dependence on foreign oil,” Alexander said. “In addition, it cleans our air and helps keep auto manufacturing jobs in Tennessee and in the U.S.”
The energy bill that passed the Senate 65 to 27 shortly before midnight raises fuel efficiency standards by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years (to an average of 35 miles per gallon), increases ethanol production and includes laws against price-gouging.
Alexander said the increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks would achieve up to an 18 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from expected levels and save consumers nearly $100 billion at the gas station.
“This is not just a simple increase in the standard,” Alexander said. “The old system made little sense given the current vehicle market and put jobs in Tennessee at risk through complex rules that needed updating. The new structure will streamline the program and allow manufacturers greater freedom to design and build vehicles that meet the needs of the American public while making new vehicles efficient for their size and use.”
Alexander said the bill’s requirement that ethanol production grows to at least 36 billion gallons by 2022 puts the Tennessee agriculture community in a position to play a key role in alternative fuels.
“The bill’s biomass provisions are good news for Tennessee farmers as our state has the resources to one day become the nation’s leader in helping to develop biofuel alternatives that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Alexander said. “This could create new sources of income for thousands of Tennessee farmers.”
The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative between the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is expected to create 4,000 new jobs in rural Tennessee counties, provide $400 million in new state and local taxes annually, and generate about $100 million each year in new farm revenue.
Alexander praised the fact that the bill did not include a mandate that utilities produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, that are scarce in the Southeast. During debate, Alexander spoke on the Senate floor against this renewable portfolio standard, saying it would have “raised our taxes, run away jobs and ruined our mountaintops.”
“This bill ensures that Tennesseans will not have to build 40-story wind turbines on our pristine mountaintops or pay billions in penalty taxes to the federal government simply because the wind doesn’t blow much in the Volunteer State,” Alexander said.
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