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The Energy Bill and Plug-In Hybrids

The House and Senate may usher in new gas-saving technologies.
August 6, 2007

On Saturday, the House passed an energy bill that would provide tax credits for plug-in hybrids, vehicles that would allow drivers to commute to work using little or no gasoline. The credits have a good chance of becoming law, even though the Senate’s energy bill does not include them.

Several news sources reporting on the bill, including the Los Angeles Times, noted important differences between the House bill and one passed by the Senate in June–differences that will need to be resolved in conference. For example, only the Senate bill raises fuel-economy standards, and only the House establishes a mandate for renewable electricity, according to reports. These issues are likely to be contentious.

But the House and Senate will probably overcome differences in legislation on plug-ins, according to a congressional staffer and a prominent lobbyist. The House bill includes a $4,000 tax credit for buying plug-in vehicles, and the Senate does not. Nevertheless, support in the Senate is strong for such legislation. Similar credits for plug-ins failed to be included in the energy bill because they were part of a controversial amendment and because two key senators weren’t in town for the vote.

The real obstacle could be President Bush. The Associated Press reports that the president is likely to veto the final bill if it includes House measures that would decrease tax breaks for oil companies. A veto would be a shame, since plug-in hybrids are one of the rare technologies that could reduce foreign-oil consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions at the same time.

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