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E-M:/ US Senate to begin debate on energy legislation

Enviro-Mich message from "Megan Owens" <meo@umich.edu>

Debate is beginning this week in the US Senate on energy legislation.  Here
is a summary of the issues of interest to Michigan that will be debated:

-Renewable Energy - In the current bill there is a provision to require that
by the year 2020 10% of an electric company's power must come from clean,
renewable sources such as wind, solar, and clean biomass.  There will likely
be an amendment offered to increase the standard to 20%, which studies have
found to be technically and economically feasible.  Currently in Michigan
less than 2% of our electricity comes from these clean sources (67% coal,
18% nuclear).  Michigan has the potential to produce up to 87% of our energy
from renewable sources (71% wind, 17% biomass).  An increased use of
renewable energy would decrease air pollution currently coming from
coal-burning power plants.  For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists
has estimated that CO2 emissions would decrease by 16% with an RPS of 20%.
Michigan Senators are still undecided on these proposals.

-Fuel Efficiency - The current bill also includes an increase in fuel
efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon over the next 12 years.  An
alternative republican proposal increases the standards to 36 miles per
gallon over 15 years.  As many of you know, fuel efficiency has actually
dropped over the past 15 years, because SUVs and light trucks are
categorized as industrial vehicles, not passenger vehicles.  Current
standards are 27 mpg for cars and 20.5 mpg for SUVs and light trucks.
Studies have shown that 40 mpg is achievable using today's technology.
These proposed increases would save the average Michigan driver $3,000 over
the life of their vehicle.  This is also the single best way to decrease our
dependency on foreign oil.  Unfortunately our Senators are opposed to these
increases and Senator Levin may be offering an amendment to strip them out
of the bill.

-Arctic Drilling - Although oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge does not have a direct impact on Michigan, the people of Michigan are
overwhelmingly supportive of protection for the Arctic Refuge.  The current
Senate energy bill does not include Arctic drilling.  However, Senator
Murkowski from Alaska has vowed to introduce an amendment to allow for
Arctic drilling.  Several other Senators have vowed to filibuster against
any such attempt.  The critical vote that may decide the fate of the Arctic
Refuge will be whether to uphold that filibuster.  Both Michigan Senators
oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

-Other - There are many other provisions in the energy bill, especially
dealing with tax breaks and subsidies for energy industries.  Some of these
would impact Michigan, such as subsidies to nuclear plants.  However they
are too numerous to detail here.  If you are interested in these or any
other information about the energy bill and its impacts on Michigan, visit
www.newenergyfuture.com or feel free to email me.

The debate on these issues begins this week, with many of the major
decisions to be made next week.  I hope this helps clarify this important
piece of legislation.

               Megan Owens
Field Director               734-662-6597
PIRGIM                    MOwens@pirg.org

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