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In the 106th Congress, no comprehensive activity on reauthorizing the Clean Water Act occurred, although a number of individual clean water bills were enacted. Other issues have been debated recently, such as reforming the law to provide regulatory relief for industry, states and cities, and individual landowners. The debate over many of these issues highlights differing views of the Act and its implementation by some who seek to strengthen existing requirements and others who believe that costs and benefits should be more carefully weighed before additional control programs are mandated.
Intuitively it seems obvious to most observers that increasing energy efficiency will ultimately reduce demand for an energy resource such as electricity. Paradoxically, economic theory suggests that this decrease in demand and subsequent decrease in cost of using the resource could cause a rebound in demand. A commonly cited example is an increase in the efficiency of home air conditioning which may reduce the resident’s monetary incentive to conserve. The resident may opt to change the thermostat setting to keep the amount he pays constant, but living at a more comfortable temperature. When actually measured this “Rebound Effect” is generally acknowledged to lower predicted reductions in electricity demand by 10%-40% depending on the device that is made more efficient.
U.S. agriculture is not an especially energy-intensive industry, but energy does account for about 6% of farm production costs. Additionally, farming is a highly mechanized industry and requires timely energy supplies at particular stages of the production cycle in order to achieve optimum yields. A substantial part of energy use by agriculture is indirect —embodied in the chemicals applied and machinery used on farms.
Omnibus energy legislation (H.R. 4) that is now in conference would expand energy tax incentives significantly. The House passed the bill on August 2, 2001, and the Senate approved its version April 25, 2002. Several energy tax issues are addressed in these bills: 1) tax incentives to increase the supply of oil and gas, and the demand for coal; 2) energy tax issues relating to energy conservation and energy efficiency; 3) energy tax issues relating to alternative fuels; 4) selected issues relating to electricity restructuring; and 5) expiring energy tax provisions.
In the 108th Congress, debate over energy efficiency programs has focused on budget, oil, natural gas, and electricity issues, and provisions in the omnibus energy policy bill, S. 2095, H.R. 6, and S. 14/S. 1149. The Bush Administration’s FY2005 budget request for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Efficiency Program sought $875.9 million, including $543.9 for R&D and $332.0 million for grants. In the first session, the omnibus energy bill (H.R. 6) had several significant tax and regulatory measures for energy efficiency. It did not pass the Senate due to concerns about cost and an MTBE “safe harbor” provision.
The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments established an operating permit system that is affecting many new and existing sources of air emissions, as well as state and local air pollution control agencies. After delays and early missteps, the operating permit program is moving ahead. All state and local programs have received interim or full approval, and permits are being issued, although at a slower rate than anticipated. However, a number of issues exist. These include the effect of key federal regulations, not yet promulgated, on permit programs and regulated sources; adequacy of state resources; gaining full approval for those permit programs that now have interim approval; and oversight.
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