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Alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles are seen by proponents as integral to improving urban air quality, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. However, major barriers — especially economics — currently prevent the widespread use of these fuels and technologies. Because of these barriers, and the potential benefits, there is continued congressional interest in providing incentives and other support for their development and commercialization.
In the 110th Congress, alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles have received a good deal of attention, especially in discussions over U.S. energy security. In his January 24, 2007, State of the Union Address, President Bush called for the increased use of renewable and alternative motor fuels to 35 billion gallons annually by 2017. U.S. consumption was roughly five billion gallons in 2006. Therefore, such an initiative would mean a seven-fold increase in the use of these fuels over 11 years.
On December 19, 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA, P.L. 110-140). EISA requires an increase in renewable fuel consumption to 9.0 billion gallons in 2008 and 36 billion gallons in 2022. Further within the 36-billion-gallon requirement, by 2022 the new law mandates the use of 21 billion gallons of “advanced biofuels,” defined as fuel derived from renewable biomass other than corn starch, with 50% lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum fuels.
The 109th Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005, P.L. 109-58), which contains many provisions relevant to alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. Among its provisions, the act expanded existing tax incentives for the purchase of advanced vehicles, authorized R&D funding for hydrogen fuel and fuel cells, and required that the nationwide gasoline supply contain a minimum amount of ethanol or other renewable fuel. EPAct 2005 was signed by President Bush on August 8, 2005.