by Marne Sussman

The newly-introduced Senate oil spill response bill, entitled “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010”, gives scant coverage to energy issues. Division B of the proposed legislation, on clean transportation, is one of only two sections that address clean energy and/or energy efficiency.  The following analysis summarizes the provisions of Division B and compares its treatment of clean transportation with similar provisions in the Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Lieberman bills.

Division B of the oil spill response bill includes two sections: reducing oil consumption through advancing the use of natural gas vehicles and advancing the use of plug-in electric drive vehicles. Title XX of the bill is entitled “Natural Gas Vehicle and Infrastructure Development” and provides multiple ways to further the use of national gas vehicles in the United States. Title XXI of the bill is entitled “Promoting Electric Vehicles” and includes plans to achieve similar aims for plug-in electric drive vehicles.

Title XX establishes programs to promote the use of natural gas vehicles, including through infrastructure development and financial support for the deployment of these vehicles. Section 2002 creates the Natural Gas Vehicle and Infrastructure Development Program and a rebate program for owners who convert a conventionally fueled vehicle to natural gas, mixed-fuel or bi-fuel. Sections 2003 – 2005 provide rebates to purchasers of alternative fuel vehicles; grants to refuelers for a natural gas refueling property and to manufacturers for research and development of engines with reduced emissions; and loans to manufacturers for re-equipping, expanding, or establishing a facility to produce alternative motor vehicles or eligible components.

Title XXI focuses on the deployment of plug-in electric drive vehicles through similar methods as those used in Title XX. The bill creates a National Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Program and requires plan development for electric vehicle deployment (§§ 2111, 2112). Section 2113 provides technical assistance to State, local, and tribal governments to assist with deployment, including grants to develop community deployment plans or carry out activities that encourage deployment. It also requires updating of model building codes, permitting and inspection processes, and zoning or parking rules to provide guidance for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Section 2116 creates a targeted vehicle deployment communities program to facilitate rapid deployment of electric vehicles. Each community may request up to $100 million in financial assistance to fund projects in the deployment community.

Title XXI goes further than Title XX in its coverage of research and studies. Section 2114 awards grants to institutions of higher education for training programs for maintaining and designing plug-in electric vehicles and their infrastructure. Sections 2121 – 2123 focus on research and development with § 2121 establishing a program to fund research in advanced batteries, infrastructure, and other technologies; § 2122 establishing the Advanced Batteries for Tomorrow Prize to advance the development of a 500 mile vehicle battery; and § 2123 requiring a study on the supply of raw materials needed for the manufacture of plug-in electric drive vehicles.

Finally, section 2115 requires an assessment of federal fleets detailing which types of vehicles would be suitable for conversion to electric vehicles.

Overall, Title XXI covering electric vehicles is more detailed than Title XX covering natural gas vehicles. More monetary support is offered in Title XX to purchasers and manufacturers for the deployment of natural gas vehicles, whereas more technical support and assistance is offered in Title XXI for the deployment of plug-in electric drive vehicles with monetary assistance being focused on communities and institutions of higher education.

Comparison to clean transportation provisions in Waxman-Markey

Title I “Clean Energy”, Subtitle C “Clean Transportation” of Waxman-Markey deals with clean transportation issues similar to those in Division B of the new Senate bill. Waxman-Markey’s attention to clean transportation is not as detailed as the new Senate bill, however, probably because Waxman-Markey covers other energy issues in far greater depth than the oil spill response bill.

Three provisions in Waxman-Markey are similar to those in the “Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010”. Section 122 establishes a program to deploy and integrate electric vehicles into the grid in multiple regions selected based upon applications for assistance. This provision is similar to § 2116 of the new Senate bill which sets up the targeted electric vehicle deployment communities program. Sections 123 and 125 of Waxman-Markey also establish a program to provide financial assistance to facilitate the manufacture of plug-in electric drive vehicles and grant advanced technology vehicle manufacturing incentive loans, much like § 2005 of the new Senate bill which grants monetary support for natural gas vehicles.

Section 121 of Waxman-Markey further requires electric utilities to develop a plan to support the use of plug-in electric drive vehicles and integrate them into the electrical distribution system, something that the new Senate bill does not address.  Additionally, emission allowances from the cap-and-trade program that the Waxman-Markey bill would have established would have been distributed to automobile manufacturers.

Comparison to clean transportation provisions in Kerry-Lieberman

Like Waxman-Markey, the Kerry-Lieberman bill sets up a comprehensive cap and trade scheme with emission allowances issued in § 4111 to be auctioned to fund a Clean Vehicle Technology Fund. This fund is set up to provide grants to vehicle manufacturers and component suppliers for facility conversion and reequipping manufacturing facilities to produce advanced technology vehicles and qualifying components. As stated before, the new Senate bill has no cap and trade provision and thus no emission allowances for clean vehicle technology. However, the grants provided under the Kerry-Lieberman fund are similar to the grants in sections 2004 and 2005 of the Senate bill.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill deals specifically with clean transportation in two sections. Title I “Domestic Clean Energy Development”, Subtitle E “Clean Transportation”, Part I “Electric Vehicle Infrastructure” § 1701 develops a plan to project the need for and location of electric drive vehicle refueling infrastructure; establishes infrastructure and standardization needs for electricity and infrastructure providers, and vehicle manufacturers; and establishes the aspirational goal of achieving strategic deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure by Jan 1, 2020. It also establishes pilot projects to demonstrate electric drive vehicles and infrastructure. This electric vehicle infrastructure planning is similar to provisions in Waxman-Markey.  Although the new Senate bill mentions electric vehicle infrastructure, it does not go as in-depth into plans for such infrastructure as either Kerry-Lieberman or Waxman-Markey.

Like the new Senate bill, Kerry-Lieberman focuses less on natural gas than on electric vehicles.  Section 4121 of Kerry-Lieberman provides a tax credit for qualified natural gas vehicles while § 4122 designates natural gas vehicle bonds for government bodies for natural gas vehicle projects.  Whereas the new Senate bill’s § 2115 requires a study of the cars in the federal fleet which could be converted to electric vehicles, Kerry-Lieberman  requires a study of the means by which the federal fleet could increase natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles (§ 4124).

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