Senate Passes Energy Bill

WASHINGTON, December 13 - The Senate tonight passed energy legislation that would boost fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The measure also included provisions by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to promote energy efficiency and to train workers for green-collar jobs.

"Given the crisis we're facing in global warming, the passage of this energy bill is an important step forward," Sanders said. "Much more has to be done in the future, but raising fuel efficiency standards and helping states, cities and towns go forward with energy efficiency and sustainable energy projects will reduce carbon emissions, lower energy costs and create good paying jobs."

The Senate vote in favor of the energy bill was 86 to 8. Senators earlier in the day defeated a measure that would have stripped billions of dollars in tax subsidies from oil and gas companies and devoted the money to new renewable sources such as solar and wind. The vote on that provision was 59 to 40, one vote shy of the 60 needed to end debate and move the bill forward.

A member of the Senate energy committee, Sanders helped shape the legislation.

The green-collar jobs provision originally was adopted in the Senate as an amendment by Sanders and Senator Hillary Clinton. It authorizes $125 million a year to train workers in jobs that involve the design, manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance of clean, efficient energy technologies. A 2006 study from the National Renewable Energy Lab said that a lack of skilled workers in the field was a major barrier to making America more energy efficient.

He also added a provision to provide grants and loans to colleges and universities to improve energy efficiency at campus facilities and for research into innovative solutions to energy challenges.

Another Sanders provision creates an energy and environmental block grant program to support the efforts of states, cities, and towns to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions that cause global warming. The grants could be used to update building codes to require construction of energy-efficient homes and businesses, retrofit old buildings with newer technology, experiment with alternative energy, create incentives for residents to car pool or ride the bus, or organize voluntary efforts to encourage people to save energy.