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Continuing Resolution Includes $25 Billion in Automakers Loans

October 8, 2008

President Bush signed a continuing resolution bill on September 30 that keeps the federal government operating through March 6, 2009, but also includes funds for automaker loans that will encourage the development of plug-in hybrids and other advanced technology vehicles. H.R. 2638—the "Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009"—includes as part of its continuing resolution an appropriation of $7.51 billion for DOE to support up to $25 billion in direct loans to automakers and auto part suppliers. The amount includes $10 million for DOE to administer the loans, which were authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, H.R. 6. That energy act designated loans to support the manufacture of advanced light-duty vehicles (cars and light trucks) that meet strict emissions limits and exceed the average fuel economy of current model year vehicles by at least 25%. The energy act gives priority to the revamping of old manufacturing facilities, including those that are currently sitting idle. The new act requires DOE to promulgate an interim final rule for the loan program within 60 days. See the White House press release, Section 129 of Division A of H.R. 2638, and Section 136 of H.R. 6.

In addition to the automotive loans, Section 130 of the continuing resolution provides a $250 million budget boost to the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), providing additional funds for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which offers energy efficiency services for the homes of low-income families. Other than that, funding for EERE will remain at fiscal year 2008 levels while the continuing resolution is in effect. However, as part of special funds for fire management at the U.S. Forest Service, Chapter 6 of the new act provides $175 million for hazardous fuels reduction, an effort that generates low-value wood waste that it useful for biomass energy production. The act specifies that $125 million of that amount should go toward fuels reduction and hazard mitigation activities on state and private lands. See Section 130 of Division A of H.R. 2638, as well as Chapter 6 of the act.