This post was contributed by Sebastian Blanco, editor in chief of AutoblogGreen. Jim Motavalli is on a month-long assignment.
Like many presidents before him, President Obama made some bold claims in his State of the Union speech this week. The speech has been widely ... (um, what's the opposite of criticized?) by the pundit class and discussed to near death, but here's bit more to chew on. If, like me, you're a green car junkie, then your ears most certainly perked up when the president said this:
With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.
Taking money from the oil companies to pay for technology that makes them less important? That's just good stuff, and the address seems to have sparked a bit of "here's what we're doing next" from supportive Democrats. The day following the speech, Vice President Joe Biden said during a visit to battery maker Ener1 that the administration plans to work to change the current tax deduction (max $7,500) to an on-the-spot rebate. Then, to help kick off the DC Auto Show
, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said
he will introduce a bill that would raise the 200,000-unit per manufacturer limit on those tax credits to 500,000.
OK. That's the good news, right? Here's the cold water: We've heard this kind of thing before, lots of times. In 2007, President Bush called for a 20 percent reduction in gasoline consumption by 2017
and a five-fold increase in ethanol production in that same time frame. In 1999, President Clinton said
he was proposing "tax incentives and investments to spur clean energy technology." Ronald Reagan said in 1985 that, "We seek to fully deregulate natural gas to bring on new supplies and bring us closer to energy independence." And so on and so on. (You can spend some time in the State of the Union archives here).
This doesn't mean that President Obama isn't serious, or that his goals aren't achievable. This is, after all, the Hope President, and he's been underestimated plenty of times, yet still comes out on top. It'll be an interesting two years (or more) watching to see if he can work with the various political powers in D.C. to put American energy policy on top, too.