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Senate Democrats roll out $4.4B energy bill

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Senate Democrats roll out $4.4B energy bill

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- Senate Democrats unveiled an energy bill Tuesday that includes more than $4.4 billion for natural gas-powered and electric vehicles.

The move represented a partial win for electric vehicle advocates, since last week Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he wasn't planning to add funds for electric vehicles.

Most of the money -- $4 billion -- is aimed at natural-gas vehicles, but the bill does set aside $400 million to spur electric vehicle use.

That's a dramatic reduction in the $11 billion proposal introduced in the House and Senate in May to boost electric vehicles.

The scaled-back energy bill includes between $10,000 and $64,000 in government rebates for natural-gas powered cars and heavy trucks. It also would give fuelers cash grants of up to $50,000 to install natural gas pumps through 2015, and authorize research, development and demonstration grants by the Energy Department.

Only Honda Motor Co. is selling compressed natural-gas (CNG) passenger vehicles in the United States, but more automakers are adding larger CNG vehicles.

Honda sells most of its Indiana-built Honda Civic GX models in fleet sales, although it offers the vehicles in four states: California, New York, Utah and Oklahoma.

"We believe in natural gas; that's why we've sustained our manufacturing effort," said Edward Cohen, Honda's vice president for government affairs.

Since the natural gas engine carries a premium of about $8,000 over traditional engines, the bill could make CNG vehicles much more cost effective. "This could be a game-changer," Cohen said.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Detroit's Big Three automakers and seven other companies, praised the bill.

"It's encouraging that the Senate recognizes the important role consumers play in enhancing energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," spokesman Charles Territo said. "Incentives like these are important for any emerging technology."

The CNG grants and rebates are worth $3.8 billion. Another $200 million would be earmarked for direct loans to help build CNG vehicles and make parts.

General Motors Co. said this month it would start delivering CNG powered Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans this fall to fleet customers. GM uses an Indiana supplier to help convert the vans to CNG vehicles.

The bill also provides $400 million for electric vehicle infrastructure and development.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has called on Congress to add funds for electric vehicle research on top of $2.4 billion awarded last year in grants for electric and battery production and a $7,500 tax break approved for buyers.

"We need some help from Congress," she said.

The House is considering expanding a tax credit to boost advanced energy production; Granholm wants that in an energy bill.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100728/POLITICS03/7280339/1148/AUTO01/Senate-Democrats-roll-out-$4.4B-energy-bill#ixzz0uyplcHRy

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The Civic GX is the cleanest vehicle on the road (cleaner than a hybrid), and Honda already offers a home-refueling station.

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An $8,000 price premium?! Good Lord! Who's supplying the parts? Pratt & Whitney?!

That caught my eye as well - it's way out of line. Gaseous fuel conversions are a pretty simple affair. Dedicated CNG vehicles should be less expensive than gasoline versions.

That tidbit aside, I'm glad to see the lion's share go to CNG rather than electric.

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Wesley Mouch.

I get that.

But I also believe that an existential threat exists founded in foreign oil dependence and CNG being widely used could significantly blunt that threat in the near-term.

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nuclear and solar are potentially limitless. the sun has enough energy for everyone for billions of years.

we humans are too petty and stupid to figure out how to farm it easily, cheaply, and at a profit.

we can power our houses, our cars, our gadgets. we just need to figure out how to do it.

with political 'encouragement' and enablement. but not regulation, agenda and intrusion.

if the US could figure out how to do it that way first, we can be rich forever, or least until the chinese figure out how to copy it for free and undercut us. and before the middle east retaliates for starving their wealth.

nuclear, same deal, we need to solve the problem and do it safely.

The US wants to export goods, why can't we be the leading exporter of nuclear waste!

Edited by regfootball

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Just increase the gas tax... Let the market decide the best alternative.

I have thought for a while that a gas tax is a possible solution to our energy problem. I don't like the idea of penalties to create change, but with things like oil it is probably necessary. Ideally we want to advance green technology until it is cheaper than oil to use, thus allowing the free market to make the shift. However, I don't think green technologies will be truly competitive with oil anytime soon.

I posted this in a previous thread about energy: A 10 cent gas tax would generate $10-20 billion in revenue per year just from consumer sales at gas stations. That money could be used to both drive green tech R&D and give cash incentives to people looking to equip solar panels on their house or something.

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nuclear and solar are potentially limitless. the sun has enough energy for everyone for billions of years.

we humans are too petty and stupid to figure out how to farm it easily, cheaply, and at a profit.

we can power our houses, our cars, our gadgets. we just need to figure out how to do it.

with political 'encouragement' and enablement. but not regulation, agenda and intrusion.

if the US could figure out how to do it that way first, we can be rich forever, or least until the chinese figure out how to copy it for free and undercut us. and before the middle east retaliates for starving their wealth.

nuclear, same deal, we need to solve the problem and do it safely.

The US wants to export goods, why can't we be the leading exporter of nuclear waste!

yes with 1st line, ...but only, maybe at best 5 billion years, but we won't be human(homo sapien) in a few million anyway.

the bold. it can't encourage and enable without doing the others. unless i'm wrong you speak of subsidies, be it research, tax free status, or tax $ going to the companies directly, much like ethanol. "the others" is also why we don't have more nuclear plants.

nuclear waste.. send that to france to get reprocessed? or how about just make some reactors that use the waste huh? tada, not waste anymore.

I have thought for a while that a gas tax is a possible solution to our energy problem. I don't like the idea of penalties to create change, but with things like oil it is probably necessary. Ideally we want to advance green technology until it is cheaper than oil to use, thus allowing the free market to make the shift. However, I don't think green technologies will be truly competitive with oil anytime soon.

I posted this in a previous thread about energy: A 10 cent gas tax would generate $10-20 billion in revenue per year just from consumer sales at gas stations. That money could be used to both drive green tech R&D and give cash incentives to people looking to equip solar panels on their house or something.

i agree with my bolded.

we already give incentives to "green tech" and solar panel installations. you're just taking more from people that can't afford more efficient cars and giving it to mostly the rich, entrepreneurs, or "green freaks". lol

Edited by loki
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Or howzabout a revenue neutral carbon tax? That way, consumers are dinged at the pumps, but get it back through income tax. It works.

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Just increase the gas tax... Let the market decide the best alternative.

Seems the most reasonable approach. When was the gas tax last increased? Use the gas tax towards funding alternative fuel r&d and infrastructure building and maintenance (roads, bridges,etc).

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Seems the most reasonable approach. When was the gas tax last increased? Use the gas tax towards funding alternative fuel r&d and infrastructure building and maintenance (roads, bridges,etc).

The gas tax has remained fixed at the same level since the early 90s. It needs to increase as the highway trust fund has been in the red the past few years and patched up with general funds. Of course it doesn't help that Congress steals vast sums of the gas tax to build hugely expensive and pointless rail transit systems...

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The gas tax has remained fixed at the same level since the early 90s. It needs to increase as the highway trust fund has been in the red the past few years and patched up with general funds. Of course it doesn't help that Congress steals vast sums of the gas tax to build hugely expensive and pointless rail transit systems...

why don't they put r&d into better, longer lasting, and less long term costs for roadways/bridges instead of anything that isn't for roadway funds?

Of course it doesn't help that Congress steals vast sums of the gas tax to pay for things its not supposed to be used for

...this tax and everything else. this is why the tax is such a smaller % of price/gallon than in the 90's. inflation. tada! so many other taxes are % based, the monetary policy is shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of this tax too. Edited by loki

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The gas tax has remained fixed at the same level since the early 90s. It needs to increase as the highway trust fund has been in the red the past few years and patched up with general funds. Of course it doesn't help that Congress steals vast sums of the gas tax to build hugely expensive and pointless rail transit systems...

Rail is about 1/10th the cost to build and maintain than highway.

Rail gets a lot of traffic off the roads. Yes they generally lose money if you look strictly at the rail transit balance sheet, but they help save money in other places. Highways that don't have as much traffic don't need to be rebuilt as often, they don't need to be widened as often to handle increased volume, and they slow the movement of goods and people less when they aren't as congested (lost time = lost money).

You're from the DC area if I recall. Can you imagine what the traffic there would be like if you took everyone off the Metro and put them in a car? It's horrible traffic now... it would be utter gridlock without the Metro.

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yes with 1st line, ...but only, maybe at best 5 billion years, but we won't be human(homo sapien) in a few million anyway.

the bold. it can't encourage and enable without doing the others. unless i'm wrong you speak of subsidies, be it research, tax free status, or tax $ going to the companies directly, much like ethanol. "the others" is also why we don't have more nuclear plants.

nuclear waste.. send that to france to get reprocessed? or how about just make some reactors that use the waste huh? tada, not waste anymore.

i agree with my bolded.

we already give incentives to "green tech" and solar panel installations. you're just taking more from people that can't afford more efficient cars and giving it to mostly the rich, entrepreneurs, or "green freaks". lol

if incentives can give us the world market edge and scientific edge, i am not opposed to the subsidies and such. I'd rather pay a scientist with federal stimulus money to make us the market leader, rather than do like now, paying people like me to sit on my ass (practicing the phrase 'would you like fries with that' and 'yessuh, would you like me to take your trash from the table for you')?

besides, energy like solar is free, once you figure out how to collect it.

Edited by regfootball

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Just increase the gas tax... Let the market decide the best alternative.

i am fine with a modest gas tax increase. for fux sake, we can't expect the money for roads to come from thin air. And we need continuous improvement.

As long as the politicians don't siphon from that pot for other corruption.

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You're from the DC area if I recall. Can you imagine what the traffic there would be like if you took everyone off the Metro and put them in a car? It's horrible traffic now... it would be utter gridlock without the Metro.

There's a reason almost every city abandoned streetcars in the 20s and passenger rail travel peaked in the 30s. It's an outdated and expensive technology that is favored by politicians, transit unions, and contractors who make a fortune building the lines. What's not appreciated is how expensive the systems are to maintain. Every city in the country has a shockingly large maintenance shortfall in their rail transit systems and equally shocking subsidies to support the deteriorating operations. The DC metro is falling apart before our eyes (escalator breakdowns, AC in the cars, track maintenance which led to last summer's crash, etc). But politicians and smart growth advocates merely ignore all that boring maintenance stuff and keep pushing for more and more new lines and extensions. Rapid transit bus lines move just as many people just as easily as trains but they're cheap and the routes can be changed relatively easily.

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Rail is about 1/10th the cost to build and maintain than highway.

Rail gets a lot of traffic off the roads. Yes they generally lose money if you look strictly at the rail transit balance sheet, but they help save money in other places. Highways that don't have as much traffic don't need to be rebuilt as often, they don't need to be widened as often to handle increased volume, and they slow the movement of goods and people less when they aren't as congested (lost time = lost money).

You're from the DC area if I recall. Can you imagine what the traffic there would be like if you took everyone off the Metro and put them in a car? It's horrible traffic now... it would be utter gridlock without the Metro.

rail makes sense in very densely populated areas. the whole world is not able to be on a rail line.

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There's a reason almost every city abandoned streetcars in the 20s and passenger rail travel peaked in the 30s. It's an outdated and expensive technology that is favored by politicians, transit unions, and contractors who make a fortune building the lines. What's not appreciated is how expensive the systems are to maintain. Every city in the country has a shockingly large maintenance shortfall in their rail transit systems and equally shocking subsidies to support the deteriorating operations. The DC metro is falling apart before our eyes (escalator breakdowns, AC in the cars, track maintenance which led to last summer's crash, etc). But politicians and smart growth advocates merely ignore all that boring maintenance stuff and keep pushing for more and more new lines and extensions. Rapid transit bus lines move just as many people just as easily as trains but they're cheap and the routes can be changed relatively easily.

right. plus, cars still provide the most unlimited and free mobility. any time, any place, day or night. on demand.

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There's a reason almost every city abandoned streetcars in the 20s and passenger rail travel peaked in the 30s. It's an outdated and expensive technology that is favored by politicians, transit unions, and contractors who make a fortune building the lines. What's not appreciated is how expensive the systems are to maintain. Every city in the country has a shockingly large maintenance shortfall in their rail transit systems and equally shocking subsidies to support the deteriorating operations. The DC metro is falling apart before our eyes (escalator breakdowns, AC in the cars, track maintenance which led to last summer's crash, etc). But politicians and smart growth advocates merely ignore all that boring maintenance stuff and keep pushing for more and more new lines and extensions. Rapid transit bus lines move just as many people just as easily as trains but they're cheap and the routes can be changed relatively easily.

Really now.... you don't know your history of GM paying municipalities to dismantle their streetcar networks and convert to buses? (GM built of course)

I'm suffering from a falling apart bus network right now. We have almost no rail here. The buses are falling apart and break down regularly. The exhaust of the buses frequently leaks into the passenger cabin so much that I have nausea and a headache by the time I get where I'm going. Port Authority here has just announced a 35% service cut beginning in January on top of a 10% fair hike.

So from both our anecdotal stories, all we can conclude is that transit systems of all types are under funded. The difference between the Port Authority that I have to deal with and the Metro is, the PAT doesn't take nearly as much traffic off the roadways simply because it can't move as many people around per vehicle.

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How does replacing cheap underfunded buses with extremely expensive rail lines (which are sure to be far more underfunded) help anything? Portland, that mecca of urban planning insanity, now sees fewer of its residents take transit because the rail lines are so expensive to operate it has cut the number of bus lines, along with stealing money from the school and police/fire budgets.

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