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Bill to Electrify Half of U.S. Auto Fleet Passes Senate Committee

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On: Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 9:46AM | By: Chris Weiss

Bill to Electrify Half of U.S. Auto Fleet Passes Senate Committee

An electric vehicle bill sponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today in a vote of 19 to 4. Called the "Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010," the bill aims to provide the financial incentives necessary to turn half of the vehicles on U.S. roadways into plug-ins by 2030. While easily passing out of committee, the bill faces an uncertain future with the current Senate term winding down toward an August recess and November elections.

Democrats are considering combining the bill with a greater package of energy and climate legislation to be presented on the Senate floor. They're hoping to push that legislation through the Senate in the near future, before recesses in mid-August and November interrupt their plans.

The Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 aims to encourage the broadening of the electric and hybrid vehicle market by pumping money into the charging infrastructure in communities across the country. The bill advocates spending about $3.9 billion over the next 10 years to create "deployment communities" around the U.S., which will be given incentives for introducing plug-in vehicles, researching technology and building the charging stations necessary to support EVs. In addition to putting more plug-ins on the road directly, these communities would serve as a study for how to continually grow the electric market in the rest of the country. The bill aims to bring 400,000 plug-in vehicles to roadways within three years, and transform 50 percent of America's automobile fleet to plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles by 2030.

Robbie Diamond, president of the Electrification Coalition Today, a non-profit association in favor of the deployment of electric vehicles, lauded the committee's action while encouraging action from the Senate at large:

"Republicans and Democrats have taken another critical step toward finally ending our nation's dangerous dependence on oil. We strongly applaud Committee members of both parties who supported electrification legislation, which represents the best way to fundamentally deal with the dangers posed by oil dependence, from the Gulf tragedy to threats in the Middle East. Now it is critical that Democrats and Republicans alike have the opportunity to support this measure on the Senate floor. There is a bipartisan, bicameral energy solution before us, and that is electrification of transportation."

If the goals within the bill are achieved, the U.S. could cut its dependency on foreign oil, which accounts for 95 percent of the transportation sector's fuel, by a third, bolstering the nation's self-sufficiency and national security.

Senator Dorgan said of the bill: ""Passing this legislation will strengthen our national security and improve the air we breathe, while relying on our abundant and diverse electricity supply to fuel our cars. We are now one step closer to dramatically reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil that hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk."

The bill has received criticism for channeling money and support to specific communities while doing nothing for the rest of the country. Some have also criticized its focus on plug-in vehicles at a time when the automotive industry is looking at a variety of alternative fuels (diesel, hydrogen fuel cell, biofuel, etc.).

The House has its own version of the bill, which is awaiting action.

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