Climate Bill Promises More Money For Automakers, More Offshore Drilling

It took President Obama and a “super majority” Democratically-led Congress over a year to plan and pass healthcare legislation in this country. Some people still don’t quite know what is in that bill or what it will do, but already Washington D.C. has moved on to its next piece of legislation, the so-called American Power Act.

Among many other things, the bill proposed by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman opens up vast tracts of ocean for oil exploration, pumps billions into mass transit, encourages heavy trucks to switch from diesel to natural gas, and provides for the creation of a carbon offset trading house. So, is this bill any good, and will it ever actually make it into law?

I am no political analyst, and as this is a transportation blog, I am going to stick with the stuff directly related to that topic. For us green car geeks, there is a lot to be happy about in the climate bill actually. Among the best parts of this bill is that it provides funding to convert heavy duty trucks running on diesel to natural gas. Of course, this requires participation from truckers, and if the financial incentives aren’t there (never mind the natural gas fuel pumps) then this could be rather pointless. There are provisions to help natural gas manufacturing expand in this country, but it could be slow going at first. But there is also a good chunk of money being earmarked for advanced car technology, like electric and hydrogen cars. I can’t complain about that. There are also going to be more tax incentives to help make up the difference in price between clean and dirty cars.

Then there are the billions of bucks being dangled in front of states who improve their mass transit systems. America should have world-class public transportation, but well, we don’t in many places. With many states still deep in the red and unable to pay their bills as it is, the only way we will get good public transportation is if the Feds bankroll a big chunk of it. But there is something missing, notably, anything specifically dedicated to high-speed rail. Maybe it is in there. Maybe I missed it. But I’m having a hard time finding it. We really need some dedication to high-speed rail if we expect it to succeed, and already I feel like interest is waning, even in Washington.

How about that off-shore drilling though? You would think that, as millions of gallons of oil pump into the Gulf of Mexico, oil might be forced to sit on the sidelines. But no. Thousands of miles of ocean are being opened to exploration (not necessarily drilling… why drill if there is nothing there?) States can veto any drilling within 75 miles of their coastline, but stand to gain 37.5% of any oil revenue should they allow it. Doesn’t exactly seem like a great way to ween us off of crude. I don’t live in a fantasy-land where we can just quit oil overnight. But one would think a bill touted as a way to clean up our economy wouldn’t include… oil. Or “clean coal.” But hey, that’s Washington for you.

There are too many details to get into, but suffice to say, even if this bill does pass… I’m not sure how much good it will do. And that is a big IF, as the bill pretty much placates no one. Republicans call it a “job-killer,” environmentalists say it doesn’t go far enough, and EVERYBODY will have to pay for it one way or another. The price of clean energy, I guess.

Source: Reuters | Image: U.S. National Archives

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.