Senators offer bill to boost alt fuel vehicles

Source: Eugene Mulero and Amanda Peterka, E&E reporters • Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013

Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the leaders of the Senate Energy and Agriculture panels, respectively, introduced legislation this week aimed at advancing the production of alternative fuel vehicles around the country.

The measure, meant to develop more demand for alternatives to gasoline, calls for supporting the deployment of alternative fuel filling stations, while expanding an Energy Department advanced technology vehicle manufacturing loan program and providing technical assistance to public-private partnerships and state and local governments.

The bill, expected to advance to the floor sometime this year, also would support the delivery of natural gas, propane, hydrogen and biofuels to the driving public. It would establish an interagency council tasked with examining the use of electricity and natural gas in federal vehicle fleets and would extend state authority to allow energy-efficient vehicles in high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

Supporters of the measure include the Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, Natural Gas Vehicles for America, the American Public Gas Association, Drive Oregon, Global Automakers, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the Electric Drive Transportation Association.

“By diversifying our fuel mix,” Wyden said in a statement yesterday, “we increase competition in the global fuel markets, lowering costs to consumers and introducing more choice into our nation’s transportation system … to make the ‘filling stations of the future’ a reality and foster the next generation of transportation fuels.”

Stabenow added that alternative fuels “need to be part of our national energy solution and can help create the high-tech jobs of the future here at home.”

“Now is the time to strengthen our energy security and ensure that America is the leader in alternative energy,” she said.

This week, President Obama proposed a plan to combat climate change that could lead to more coal-burning facilities closing in the coming years to make way for cleaner forms of energy.

In the GOP-led House, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation that would require 30 percent of new automobiles in 2015, 50 percent in 2016 and 50 percent in each subsequent year to operate on nonpetroleum fuels in addition to or instead of petroleum-based fuels.

“It would empower consumers to make a choice about which fuel is best for them,” Engel said. “I believe that choice helps keep costs down.”

The House measure is designed to encourage the production of alternative fuels and fueling stations. It is unclear at this point if Republican leaders will advance the bill in the chamber.