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House Sends President An Energy Bill to Sign

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"The General Services Administration is the country's biggest landlord," said Andrew Goldberg, chief lobbyist for the American Institute of Architects. "This will help transform the marketplace for systems and equipment that make buildings more energy efficient and reduce the reliance on fossil fuel."

Not everyone was happy at the end of a year of haggling and lobbying. To secure passage for the bill, congressional leaders dropped a tax package that would have reduced breaks for the biggest oil and gas companies and extended breaks for wind and solar projects.

"We're pretty disappointed," said Rhone A. Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, which sought an extension of the investment tax credit that expires at the end of next year. "Clearly the most important provisions for us were left on the cutting-room floor." Resch said that because of long lead times for big solar projects, "we will see the U.S. market for solar start to shrink rapidly by the second quarter of next year."

But many environmental groups and lawmakers were elated. "This bill is a clean break with the failed energy policies of the past and puts us on the path toward a cleaner, greener energy future," said Carl Pope, director of the Sierra Club.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who proposed raising fuel-efficiency standards in 2001, 2003 and 2005, said that the energy bill would help the United States escape the "vicious whirlpool of imported oil, exported dollars and military obligations all spinning out of control." He added that "with this bill . . . we are getting serious about our oil addiction."

Two years ago, a Markey amendment on fuel efficiency failed by an 87-vote margin, closer than his earlier efforts. But this year Democratic leaders made an energy bill a top priority. And Bush, in his State of the Union address, endorsed a similar boost in gasoline mileage standards and urged Americans to break their "addiction" to oil.

Soaring prices for oil and petroleum products and growing public concern about climate change also encouraged lawmakers to back higher fuel-efficiency standards. While U.S. automakers lobbied heavily for lower mileage targets, they were facing a broad coalition that included not only environmentalists but people like FedEx chief executive Fred Smith and retired general and Marine Corps commandant P.X. Kelley.

"I think between process, policy and politics it all came together and we have an energy bill no one could have envisioned six months ago," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency.

Cuttino said that the Pew Campaign, founded in April, would close its doors in mid-January.


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