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President signs energy bill.

On Oct. 24, with a Maurice, La., oil rig for a backdrop, President Bush penned his name to the Energy Policy Act of 1992. By the year 2010, this bill to revamp U.S. energy strategy is expected to cut oil imports by one-third -- up to 4.7 million barrels a day -- and boost renewable energy use by 20 percent.

Congress scrapped the most contentious features in initial versions of the bill (SN: 7/6/91, p.8): so-called CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards to increase the mileage of U.S. cars, and the sale of leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and outer continental shelf for oil and gas drilling.

Highlights of what remains in the more than 800-page blueprint include:

* Incentives to encourage greater production of energy from renewable sources, such as a 1.5] per kilowatt subsidy to utilities for electricity derived from wind, solar-heated steam, photovoltaic power cells, geothermal heat, or biomass burning.

* One-step licensing for commercial nuclear plants. Like a court-contested Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rule issued in 1989, it requires one public hearing prior to construction of a reactor. NRC will waive a formerly standard second hearing before a plant starts up -- unless petitioners show convincing evidence of a licensing violation that threatens public health or safety.

* Mandatory efficiency standards for lighting, electric motors, heating and cooling equipment, shower heads, toilets, and urinals. Six years ago, President Reagan vetoed a bill that would have instituted many such standards (SN: 11/15/86, p.316).

* Requirements to increase reliance on non-petroleum-based fuels. By 1999, for example, 75 percent of federally purchased cars and light-duty trucks must run on fuels such as natural gas, ethanol, methanol, propane, electricity, or hydrogen.

* Plans for new five-year research programs at the Department of Energy (DOE). Some will focus on increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, electric motors, and heat engines (including alternatively fueled gas turbines). Others aim to cut the volume and toxicity of wastes from civilian nuclear reactors, to design environmentally benign fuel cells, to demonstrate the viability of fusion-generated electric power, to standardize the design of advanced fission reactors, to produce high-temperature superconducting equipment (from wires to refrigeration systems), and to generate hydrogen from renewable resources. Two additional programs will work to commercialize advanced materials and manufacturing technologies.

* New programs to cope with greenhouse gases. Within one year, DOE must issue for each greenhouse gas a national inventory of emissions from 1987 through 1990. Six months later, it must publish guidelines not only for the voluntary industrial reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions, but also for the annual collection of data on reductions in those emissions -- both intentional (such as through fuel switching and tree planting) and unintentional (such as through plant closings).

* A new interagency research program to investigate possible human-health effects of 60-hertz electromagnetic fields, directed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
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Title Annotation:Energy Policy Act of 1992 will reduce oil imports by one-third by 2010
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 21, 1992
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