Today, Senator Oil Independence bill handout graphic Energy Smart Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined with three other Senators (Bennet, Udall, Carper) to introduce the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act of 2011.  Through programs in five arenas, this bill targets eliminating “overseas” oil imports by 2030.

The largest proposed savings would come from accelerating electric vehicle adoption and continuing to tighten fuel efficiency standards. Alternative fuels would provide the second largest tranche of replacements. And, improved transportation options (such as equalizing tax benefits between public transit and car commuters) and improving the nation’s freight infrastructure (including a look at electrified rail) would provide the last two major additional elements.  The last — good payoff but relatively small levels of oil demand reductions — would be from measures (such as energy efficiency) to lower the demand for home heating oil. All told, the bill’s sponsors project this legislation to foster an eight million barrel per day (roughly 40 percent of current US demand) reduction in US oil demand by 2030.  This is two million barrels a day more than the United States imports from non-North American nations today.

Consider something.   Eight million barrels per day at $100 equals $800 million per day not sent overseas or nearly $300 billion per year.  How much better would the U.S. economy be with $300 billion to be invested within our shores rather than sent overseas to fund others’ lifestyles and economies?  Amid a focus on ‘reducing the deficit’ and ‘addressing the debt’, we — as a nation — should be serious about reducing our ever-worsening energy deficits.

While this bill is serious and has meaningful measures, after a quick glance at its 80 pages, it seems to have  several challenges and shortfalls:

  • Its assumptions about “North American” (Canadian and Mexican) oil exports to the United States are, well, optimistic.  Mexico is quite likely to end its oil export days this decade (and quite possibly within the next five years).    The prospects for continued (expanded) Canadian oil exports are entirely reliant on expanded tar sands production which is far from an environmental friendly prospect.
  • The inclusion of natural gas transportation. Simply put, analysis suggests that the efforts to massively subsidize natural gas vehicles resemble something akin to a fossil-foolish version of corn-ethanol.  The numbers don’t pan out.
  • No discussion of how ’smart growth’ could be fostered through inclusion of location efficiency (and energy efficiency) in the mortgage process.  Nor does there seem to be significant elements about how other actions (such as fostering telecommuting, alternative work schedules, etc) could have tremendous impacts on the nation’s oil demands.

Perhaps most importantly, while ‘major’ in what it proposes, this represents an incremental step (even if an important one) against the threat that the national economy faces from Peak Oil’s threat to radically reduce our nation’s supply to feed its ‘oil addiction’.  We — as individuals, businesses, communities, a nation — must take these types of measures … and more … if we are going to navigate the treacherous perfect storm that Peak Oil and Climate Disruption is creating.

See after the fold for a summary of the bill’s key elements.

 

National Energy Security Program

  • Establishes a National Oil Savings Goal that would eliminate demand for non-North American oil by 2030
  • Establishes a National Energy Security Council in the Executive Office of the President
  • Charges the President, in coordination with the National Energy Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, with:
  • Implementing the programs established in this Act;
  • Reviewing existing related federal programs and authorities;
  • Setting a higher goal for 2030 if the review finds it feasible;
  • Establishing a plan for meeting the 2030 goal, including biennial targets;
  • Making recommendations to Congress when legislation is needed to address barriers or provide additional authority;
  • Including funding for programs in the plan in annual budget requests.

Vehicle Fuel Efficiency

  • Directs the Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of the EPA to issue rules, using existing authority, that maximize oil savings by setting CAFE and greenhouse gas emissions standards for the light-duty fleet from 2017 through 2030.
  • Directs the Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of the EPA to issue rules, using existing authority, to maximize oil savings from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Deployment

  • Establishes a comprehensive electric vehicle deployment program (S. 948, the Merkley-Alexander Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2011).
  • Establishes a deployment communities for electric vehicles.
  • Expands support and grants for federal and private electric vehicle fleets.
  • Creates a 500 mile battery research competition, and additional funding for advanced battery research at ARPA-E.

Transportation Infrastructure

  • Transportation Options for Families and Businesses
  • Amends current federal transportation planning rules to include planning for oil savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions in transportation infrastructure plans developed by states and the largest metro areas and authorizes funding for projects to implement the plans.
  • Equalizes commuter tax benefits between car commuters and transit riders.
  • Freight Transportation
  • Establishes an initial goal of shifting at least 10% of freight to rail and marine.
  • Authorizes a competitive grant program to address freight rail congestion.
  • Requires a study by GAO on rail electrification.

Alternative Fuels

  • Advanced Biofuels
  • Extends current tax credits for advanced biofuels, creates a new technology-neutral investment tax credit for all advanced biofuels, and adds algae as eligible for the cellulosic blending tax credit.
  • Powering Vehicles with Natural Gas
    • Tax credits for medium- and heavy-duty fleet vehicles to use natural gas instead of diesel.

Home Heating Oil and Propane Conservation

  • Authorizes funding for state-based energy efficiency programs for residential and commercial users of heating oil and propane.
  • Establishes a state-based program to provide financing assistance for commercial building owners, including public institutions, to replace a fossil fuel boiler or furnace with a biomass boiler or furnace.