alternative energy

energy bills 2008

what's up

With gas prices surging and clean energy all the rage, energy policy is a once again a hot topic in Congress.

In 2007 lawmakers passed a bill to hike up gas mileage standards, give an extra boost to ethanol production and phase in other efficiency standards. This year Congress has batted around a number of bills to make a dent in prices at the pump, but political grandstanding during an election year has so far doomed any bill from becoming law. That might change in the final weeks of Congress, as the Senate picks up House bill opening up off-shore drilling and boosting investment in alternative fuels.

green tax incentives

The Senate blocked a measure last year that would extend and expand incentives for green energy; the sticking point being that it would've been paid for by rollbacks on tax breaks for big oil.

The House passed a similar bill in February '08 - with the same deal-killer of oil tax hikes. Below is a snapshot of what's in the bill.

Tax credit would include:

nuclear energy


Nuclear power is cheap and emission free but following fears of meltdowns and concerns about waste disposal, it is also vastly unpopular. Yet in spite of the environmental concerns it raises, nuclear energy still has huge economic viability and so remains an issue with states that are always searching for more affordable energy alternatives. Nuclear power plants also come up as a security concern, in spite of claims that power plants are largely terrorist-proof.

Energy produced

How much of our energy is nuclear energy (2002):

  • 20% of our electricity (EIA);
  • 8% of all energy (EIA).

Cost of nuclear energy compared to other energies

(using 1997 info) (EIA)

energy bills 2005

Bill in Brief

In July, 2005 Congress passed an energy bill with the aim of raising energy supplies at home, lowering energy costs, improving electricity grid reliability and encouraging fuel efficiency. The president signed the bill into law in August.

After Katrina, Congress went through another round of energy hand wringing and sent a second energy bill through the House. That bill is now stopped in the Senate.

energy overview


Energy is, of course, what keeps America - and the rest of the world - running. It's also the source of political debate all the way from drilling in Alaska to windfarming in Massachusetts.

To dive into the nitty gritty of those debates, also see our our fossil fuel, alternative energy and nuclear power pages.

But first, the lay of the energy fields...

where our energy comes from - and what it's used for

Note: the thickness of the lines show how much of each energy source goes toward what use - for example 100% of nuclear energy goes to creating electricity. sources: EIA and EIA (pdf)

How much energy we're using:

  • 100 Quadrillion Btu total (EIA);

energy bills 2006

Bills in Brief

With soaring summer gas prices (which later mellowed) putting the spotlight back on energy, Congress got in the political mood for some energy saving action in 2006

Both the Senate and House tossed around new and rehashed ideas for short term fixes and long term solutions to spiking gas prices. But although the House trickled out a steady flow of mini energy bills, the only measure that ended up passing was one opening up 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling.

energy bills 2007

Bills in Brief

With a Democratic Congress in charge, 2007 at first looked like it would see a host of energy bills to rev up alternative energy use and ease up on fossil fuel dependence. Both the Senate and House passed a number of energy bills, but ended up with a final - pared down - bill that the president might signed into law right before Christmas.

The original Senate bill

The Senate passed a swath of energy measures, as part of S 1419, in June including:

  • Fuel efficiency standards (also known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE standards). S 1419 would increase minimum gas mileage to 35 mpg by 2020. (WP)

  • Renewable electricity and biofuels. S 1419 requires that 36 billion gallons of fuel come from biofuel by 2022. (WP)

alternative energy primer

A Special Joe Primer

Renewable energies are hot. Environmentalists love how they keep our environment clean and our climate cool; security hawks hope they’ll help wean us off of our MidEast oil addiction; and venture capitalists get a new bubble to throw their money into. Yippee!

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