Possibly the United States is starting to turn the corner on energy efficiency. Not there yet, but the Energy Bill President George W. Bush has signed is a beginning.
It is, like a Farm Bill, too complex an omnibus for one human brain to grasp. You have to study it in chunks, so many disparate elements does it draw together. Phasing out incandescent bulbs by 2020! Ethanol in the gasoline! Fuel-efficiency standards for cars! Renewables research! What would you like? A bit of it’s in there.
The ethanol stuff — a federal mandate for up to 15 billion gallons (which is a lot) by the middle of the next decade, and a total of 36 billion gallons of non-corn-ethanol renewable fuels by 2022 — is basically, as one commenter at Green Car Congress says, liquid pork, possibly better news for farmers than even the straight agricultural subsidies the U.S. federal government hands out. Doubtless a massive ethanol mandate was the only way to get the thing through the farm-staters in the House of Representatives.
There is much to be dissatisfied about in the bill, since it’s essentially a subsidy-and-regulation package rather than an effort to shift the market toward more sensible choices by making people pay the costs of their externalities. Eliminating electricity subsidies, for instance, would be a much better way to get people to switch away from incandescent lightbulbs than simply imposing an efficiency standard by fiat that only compact fluorescents can currently meet.
But on balance, there’s more good than bad. You have to start somewhere.