According to recent reports in The Hill, California Representative Dan Lungren (R) of California’s 3rd Congressional District has recently introduced H.R. 3872 — The Excellence in Energy Efficiency Act of 2012 – an interesting piece of legislation that would award $1 billion to the first American incorporated auto company that can produce and sell 60,000 mid-sized sedans that, and here is the catch, are also capable of getting 100 miles per gallon on gasoline-powered engines.
Interestingly, Rep. Lungren’s bill would presumably only apply for cars that utilize gasoline as its sole means of power. So, cars like Chevy’s Volt, which currently clocks in around 93 MPGe on its gas plug-in hybrid electric system, would more than likely not qualify. Congressmen Lungren’s bill also points out that sub-compact vehicles and all-electric would not be eligible to receive the cash prize either.
Serving as a sort of antithesis to the Democrats increased push for greener, hybrids, and all-electric cars, it’s worth mentioning that Rep. Lungren’s bill would also seek to end the current $7,500 tax credit awarded to individuals who purchase electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Energi, or the Chevy Volt. Of course he wouldn’t be the only GOP Representative to share that sentiment. Recently Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced a bill that seeks to terminate the $7,500 tax credit awarded to consumers who purchase an electric vehicle, which according to various estimates could end up costing the government several billion dollars.
Republican criticism over Democratic practices is, of course, nothing new. In fact, Republicans have long blasted the Obama administration over its partial government ownership of GM. Republicans, and American citizens no less, have also been concerned with the amount of government subsidies handed to various automakers, especially subsidies for GM’s Chevy Volt.
Rep. Lungren’s bill is not the first of its kind, though. While the awards didn’t reach anywhere near his proposed $1 billion, recently NASA and the Defense Department offered incentives to companies that further develop technology related to space exploration and robotics.
Whether you agree with Rep. Lungren’s proposed bill, or think it is another attempt to throw government money at the auto industry, we can’t help but wonder if promoting gasoline-powered cars (albeit ones that get more than double the average MPG right now) will truly help the country shake its dependency on oil — over 30 percent of which comes from regimes that are less friendly or stable, such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Algeria. We’re not convinced it would.
There are certainly those out there now that see electric cars as both an answer, at least in some ways, to the ongoing energy crisis, and a solution to partially decrease the countries dependency on foreign oil. But considering all the conflict, controversy, and political issues surrounding many oil exporting countries (not to mention the billions spent on oil subsidies), would it not be more prudent to continue pushing for developments in alternate car technology such as electrics?
No one will argue that a gasoline-powered car that gets an improved 100 miles per gallon is a bad thing, but given all the not-so-savory minutiae surrounding gasoline and oil, it seems that Rep. Lungren’s proposed bill is more of a step backwards than forwards. Electric cars and the technology are by no means perfect, but they are the future, at least until we come up with something better.