Federal bill includes energy grants

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On Dec. 19, President Bush signed a broad federal energy bill intended to promote renewable energy and efficiency.

The bill establishes an Energy and Environmental Block Grant to provide seed money for innovations to achieve greater energy efficiency. These grants would fund local initiatives, including building and home conservation programs, energy audits, fuel conservation programs, building retrofits to increase energy efficiency, “smart growth” planning and zoning, and alternative energy programs.

Proponents say the energy bill will save consumers, including municipalities, billions of dollars through new energy efficiency standards.

The bill’s new lighting standards alone are predicted to lower consumers’ annual electricity bills by $13 billion in 2020 and eliminate the need for 60 mid-sized power plants.

The bill requires a 40 percent improvement in the fuel efficiency standards of automobiles, to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the first increase in three decades.

Congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said the bill will “[get] our national energy policy back on track.”