WASHINGTON – Gas guzzlers could become relics of the past and farmers might rival oil companies in producing motor fuels under a new energy law. Consumers also will save electricity – and money – from more efficient refrigerators, furnaces and dishwashers. The new law revs up the push for efficiency on everything from light bulbs and home furnaces to new commercial buildings. The office building of the future might need less energy and rely more on wind, solar or biomass, becoming zero emitters of greenhouse gases. And there will be improved efficiency labeling on TVs and computers. That’s the future outlined by some energy experts as a result of new legislation President Bush signed Wednesday. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champAutomakers now will be required to achieve an industrywide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, a 40percent jump and the first federally required increase in 32 years. The act also stands to change the fuel that motorists will use, requiring a sixfold increase in the use of ethanol instead of gasoline. Bush said these measures are “a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil” and addressing global warming. “Taken together, all these measures will help us improve our environment,” Bush said at an Energy Department signing ceremony, adding that they “could reduce projected carbon dioxide emissions by billions of metric tons.” Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is now the leading greenhouse gas, trapping the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. “We think it’s the most significant energy-saving law ever,” said Lowell Ungar, policy director at the Alliance to Save Energy, a private-enterprise advocacy group. The availability of more fuel-efficient vehicles is expected to save 1.1million barrels of oil a day and could save a motorist $700 to $1,000 a year in fuel costs, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that was widely cited during congressional debate on the bill. But second to that, the simple light bulb will likely bring the biggest energy saving to consumers. The law calls for the phaseout, beginning in 2012, of the inefficient incandescent bulb that has been in use since the days of Thomas Edison. By 2014, these bulbs “will be virtually obsolete,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who authored the lighting provision in the law. While the law will not dictate specific technology, the 100-watt bulb will have to be replaced, for example, by one that provides the same amount of light for 72 watts, with additional improvements required by 2020. “It’s a big deal,” Bingaman said in an interview. “These (new) standards will improve lighting efficiency by 70percent by 2020.” That’s an electricity saving equal to shutting down 24 coal-burning power plants and a saving for consumers of $6billion for electricity, Bingaman estimated. The law also requires new energy-efficiency standards for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers and clothes washers, as well as improved energy-use labeling on light bulbs, televisions, computer monitors and other electronic products. Homeowners could also find more efficient natural-gas furnaces on the market. The law makes it clear that the Energy Department can issue furnace-efficiency requirements more stringent in colder regions of the country than nationwide. It requires the department to move faster to issue appliance standards. Ungar said a new program to foster more energy-efficient commercial buildings “is potentially huge” since such buildings account for much of the energy used today. But he cautioned that while the law authorizes programs to spur construction of “green” buildings, Congress must still come up with money to fund the program. Carlos Riva, president of Verenium Corp., a pioneer in developing cellulosic ethanol, said the new ethanol requirement will spur the investments needed to expand ethanol use dramatically. “We know the science and the process technology. The challenge is scaling it up to a point where it’s competitive,” Riva said. He predicted that within 15 years, 20percent of the fuel people put into their cars will be alternative fuels.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!