Friday, May 14, 2010

Climate Bill Would Encourage Alternative Fuels, Expand Offshore Drilling

Kerry, Lieberman and Graham

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and John Kerry (D-MA)

A mix of electric cars, natural gas and offshore drilling. Can it pass?

If the American Power Act becomes law, it could mean a whole new round of subsidies and tax credits for green cars, and aggressive cuts to emissions. The bill would aim to gradually slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 4.75 percent by 2013, 17 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.

But the legislation also includes an offshore drilling expansion that many thought was all but dead in the wake of an explosion at a drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil gushing into the ocean. The agency in charge of regulating offshore rigs now stands accused of illegally rubber-stamping some drilling proposals, including the approval it gave to the Deepwater Horizon rig involved in the recent spill.

The repeal of a ban on offshore drilling off the Eastern seaboard has led to threats from congresspeople like Sen. Bill Nelson to vote against the bill, and highlights a discrepancy in the administration's energy goals.

On the one hand, President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have been fervent supporters of electric vehicles and have backed up their words with billions of dollars in grants for the fledgling industry. On the other, the administration seems to think that more drilling, increased supply and cheaper oil are, at the very least, political necessities to a successful energy policy. While government incentives may be capable of helping to get the first EVs rolling off of the assembly line, many analysts expect the general public to remain ambivalent about hybrids and electrics until gas prices rise significantly.

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