As the current Congress scrambles to pass an energy bill before its term expires at the end of the year, some parts of the House version of the legislation should be of note to green car enthusiasts. Though it is often referred to as “the offshore drilling bill,” H.R. 6899 is a complex piece of legislation that—depending on who you ask—was either constructed to have just enough appeal with each of the various interests in Congress to pass, or littered with so-called “poison pills” to ensure its failure.
Democrats are rumored to be secretly hoping for a Bush veto that would allow them to pass a more favorable version of the bill with wider margin in Congress and a Democratic president. If the legislation gets past the Senate but is rejected by the White House, it would enable them to go back to their constituents saying “we tried” on the highly politicized issue of energy prices. Nonetheless, if a similar version of the House bill passes, it would be both a blessing and a curse to a wide array of political interests.
Environmentalists are likely to be attracted to a tax credit of up to $5,000 toward the purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and a mandate that would force each gas station to install at least one “alternative fuel pump” by 2018. The tax credit seems to have been specifically targeted to provide incentive for future owners of the Chevy Volt, an American made car that has the potential to not only be the greenest car ever to hit the mass market, but also save General Motors from years of lay-offs and unprofitability. The alternative fuel provision is not as attractive as it may sound though—it covers biodiesel and compressed natural gas pumps but offers a $50,000 tax credit to stations that choose to install E85 pumps instead.
Supporters of fiscal responsibility and oil industry critics will be happy to hear that the billions of dollars in tax cuts given to oil companies by the Bush administration at times when they were reporting record profits, are finally coming to an end, either in this bill or in a future piece of legislation.