This year, the Bush administration and Congress have talked about ways to reduce the nation's dependence on imported oil. They've called for legislation to encourage manufacturers and car buyers to switch to alternative fuels like ethanol. But there's already a law on the books — and it may be rolled back soon.
The 1992 energy bill set an ambitious goal for alternative fuel use in America: By 2010, 30 percent of all motor fuel used would be alternative. With that date racing toward us, it look like that ambitious goal will be erased from the books.
Tuesday, the DOE proposed a new rule to extend that deadline by 20 years — to 2030. That's the new goal, according to Dana O'Hara, of the Energy Department. He says to comply with the original timetable, the United States would, in the next three years, have to replace three quarters of all passenger cars on the road.
O'Hara says the law didn't set mandates or standards to force the private sector to make or buy alternative fuel.
And, he notes, when Congress passed the law, oil prices seemed destined to go up. Instead, they plummeted. By 1998, they'd dropped to $10 a barrel. O'Hara says that meant that alternative fuels just weren't commercially viable.
Energy Department officials say that with technology advancing, and oil prices likely to stay high, its new goal of 30 percent alternative fuel by 2030 can be achieved.