The fact that the election of a Democratic Congress last fall has not yielded meaningful changes in the Iraq policy has helped engender a sentiment that this new Congress just isn't getting enough done. Though change in Iraq still appears difficult to achieve before a new President is sworn in a year from January, the Democrats continue to make headway in other areas, most recently energy reform.
Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Friday on energy legislation that would force American automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and light trucks by 40 percent by 2020.
The latest version of the measure, if it becomes law, will force wrenching changes on the American car companies, from design studios to new-car showrooms to executive suites. Automakers now have to achieve 27.5 miles per gallon on cars, a figure that has not changed since 1984, and 22.2 miles per gallon for light trucks, including minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickups. Under the compromise, the companies will retain the distinction between the classes of vehicles, but must still meet a combined 35 m.p.g. fleetwide standard.
The package will also include a requirement that most electric utilities produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by 2020.
This bill doesn't do everything that one would hope such a bill would do, but its passage would represent a giant step forward that should not be understated. The Democratic Congress appears on path to achieve something that no other Congress in my lifetime and even longer has been able to: Enact legislation that will actually help move the country towards energy independence.
Republican Congresses of the past have passed major giveaways to the oil, coal and other related industries that have clearly done little to bring much-needed change. But the effort by the Democratic Congress to dramatically increase the fuel efficiency standards for cars sold in America, as well as to increase the amount of energy being produced from renewable sources, would get move America a lot further along in the path towards both energy independence and better stewardship of the the Earth.
Enactment of this proposal would not only mark a major win for the Democratic Congress, it would also mark a significant success for Nancy Pelosi, who apparently did something no other recent Speaker of either party has been able to do: Stare down John Dingell and come out ahead.
So while this deal doesn't appear to be perfect, and its passage wouldn't likely lessen the unhappiness of those who want above all to see change in Iraq (or those unhappy about FISA or whatever else), it does underscore an important point: Far from being a "Do Nothing Congress," as was the case with the 109th, this new Democratic Congress is continuing to bring some much needed change, including (but not limited to) an increase to the minimum wage, the enactment of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, a boost in student loans and now (potentially) serious energy reform.