US and California Policy
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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Washington is divided, we are in an election year, and fuel prices are unusually high. All of this is helping to drive significant partisan bickering in Washington. President Obama has been calling for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that takes advantage of domestic oil and gas, while also supporting clean energy strategies. The President has announced programs providing $14 million for research into algae-based fuels and twice that for natural gas vehicle fuels. Additionally, on March 7, the President announced a $4.7 billion proposal to support the rollout of electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles and some other advanced technology options. The plan includes increasing the incentive for electric vehicles from $7,500 to $10,000, making it a point of sale rebate, and opening it up to other technologies. Broadening incentives beyond electric drive should increase political support, but this bold proposal still faces an uphill battle.
Federal transportation infrastructure funding continues to be a major sticking point. The House version of the Transportation Bill drew widespread criticism for its singular focus on road-building and lack of funding for transit and other alternative transportation modes. House leaders are trying to move the Bill in pieces, but there is no clear path forward. As with the Obama administration proposal, the prospects of passing this (or any other ambitious bill) remains uncertain in today’s toxic political climate. Congress is ultimately expected to pass a bill that looks more like a two-year extension of the policies, programs and funding levels in place today.
Given the current situation in Washington, many are looking to the states – particularly California – to lead the way on clean energy and transportation. On January 27, the California Air Resources Board adopted a historic suite of regulations that will drive significant technology advancement in the light-duty vehicle sector. If successfully implemented, these policies will enable dramatic changes not only in California, but throughout the country. The policies include:
● Passenger car emission standards that will improve air quality and drive deployment of advanced fuel saving technologies through 2025
● A Zero Emission Vehicle mandate resulting in 15 percent of new cars sold in California in 2025 have zero tailpipe emissions
● A general policy framework requiring that the large oil companies provide financing for clean and low carbon vehicle refueling infrastructure.
The bold standards put in place by California and the federal government will require a complementary suite of policies, including incentives to ensure these vehicles enjoy broad market acceptance.
CALSTART is working with a variety of stakeholders to ensure that public financial support for advanced transportation remains available for the next several years.