House Dems strike deal on CAFE, RES, and RFS

The big news out of the US House of Representatives last night is that the Democrats including most importantly Speaker Pelosi and Rep Dingell on a comprehensive energy bill that includes a historic increase in vehicle fuel economy, an all new renewable electric standard, and a major increase in the renewable fuel standard. (See here for the New York Times story and here for the Washington Post story.) No bills are ever perfect, but if this one is ultimately signed into law, it will make a serious down payment on US reductions in global warming pollution and set a new direction on energy policy.

The schedule from here is for floor debate in the House probably on Tuesday and a vote on Wednesday if things stay on track. Of course in the strange process (a.k.a. "ping-pong") that is being used to reconcile the House and Senate energy bills, getting a new version adopted by the House is not necessarily mean that the bill will be just a Senate vote away from landing on the President's desk.

Because the Republicans wouldn't agree to a conference, the Democratic leadership have been negotiating the bill's language in an informal process. Ultimately, the House and the Senate have to adopt the exact same language and this means that Senate Majority Leader Reid needs the House bill through a Senate vote intact. And of course the Senate process being what it is, this means that the bill needs a filibuster proof, 60 vote majority.

The signs are good with both Reid and Michigan Senator Levin and Senator Stabenow apparently signaling their support last night. But there has been plenty of speculation that Reid would have trouble lining up the same 60 votes for an energy bill with a CAFE increase and a renewable electric standard.

Watch this space for more details. I'm sure NRDC will have press releases and my colleagues that know more about CAFE and RES than I do will post on the nitty-gritty over the next few days.

On the RFS, what I know now and can share is that the energy bill will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022 and will set lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions thresholds for renewable fuels. Once enacted, this will be a major first--both in using GHGs as a standard and shifting our biofuels policies to focus on performance rather than feedstock or technology. There are also important land-use, air, and other environmental safeguards. Of course we'll have see the final language from the House and then from the Senate, but I'm confident that this bill would go a long way towards getting biofuels right.

David Roberts over at Grist has it right when he says:

1. Love him or hate him, this bill is possible because Dingell hashed out a CAFE compromise he could accept, and brought a whole passel of lawmakers with him.

2. Everyone I've talked to that's in or around the process says the same thing: Nancy Pelosi is a hero on this bill. She gets this stuff in her gut. It's in large part her work and persistence that have made it happen.