Vote on the Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act Postponed

Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) postponed a procedural vote on S. 3815, the Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010. Opposed by the propane industry in its present form, S. 3815 would provide federal financial incentives toward the manufacture, purchase and related infrastructure costs of natural gas vehicles. Concurrent propane vehicle programs are not included in the legislation. Reid’s office released a statement suggesting that while S. 3815 has some bipartisan backing, it did not have the 60 votes necessary to move forward at this time. However, his office remains confident that a bipartisan consensus can be reached. 

The primary roadblock to passing S. 3815 is the $5 billion price-tag. In order to pay for the new programs supporting electric, natural gas, and hopefully in the end propane vehicles and infrastructure, the legislation hikes the government’s oil spill liability trust fund fee from 8 cents to 21 cents per barrel. The oil industry, as well as many Republicans strenuously oppose this provision, preferring to move forward on this or similar legislation without raising taxes.
Current thinking suggests that Reid will rework S. 3815 to include a different program funding scheme, one that presumably will be more palatable to Republicans and other fiscal conservatives, and reintroduce this legislation later in the lame duck with an eye toward passing something before the end of the year. Whether or not Reid can come up with a supportable funding mechanism is open to question. However, if a deal cannot be reached this may be a precursor to the sort of fiscal restraint the next Congress will employ as much more budget-conscious members come to town in January.



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