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Senators unite to pass energy bill

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By The Staff

New Mexico’s two U.S. senators, Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D) joined their colleagues in the upper chamber to pass an energy bill Thursday by an 86-8 vote.Bingaman and Domenici, respectively chairman and ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, greeted the passage of the energy bill in positive terms but differed in their disappointments about what the energy policy bill did not include.“The passage of this bill is a substantial accomplishment for America,” Bingaman said in an announcement. “It’s been three decades since we improved vehicle fuel efficiency standards and passing CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) alone is a big step forward for our country.”The bill increased the CAFE standard by 40 percent, to 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2020, the first increase since 1975.“By passing new, tough fuel economy standards as well as a renewable fuels standard, we will make major progress toward that goal,” said Domenici.Before the vote, Domenici urged the Senate to reject a $22 billion tax increase on domestic oil and gas production, which he said would have faced a veto from the president and doomed the bill in any form this year.Domenici said the bill contains the priorities that he outlined from the beginning of the discussions on the bill. He noted that the bill contains a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that requires 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2008 and increases to 36 billion gallons by 2022.Domenici has expressed his concern that the RFS does not more fully promote advanced biofuels, like cullulosic ethanol, but is nonetheless pleased with the overall compromise reached.Bingaman said he was disappointed in the absence of two provisions that would have promoted increased use of renewable energy.“I’m disappointed that we were not able to move ahead with a renewable energy standard or with provisions to extend and expand the tax incentives for renewable energy production and energy conservation,” he said. “I hope in the next session of Congress we are able to revisit both of those issues and enact legislation.”The energy bill now goes back to the House for approval and then to the White House for signature.The House, meanwhile, approved a one-week extension for the Continuing Resolution that funds federal agencies, amid signs that the appropriations impasse may come to an end next week.