ENERGY POLICY:

Reid delays vote on gas, electric vehicle bill

The Senate will not vote today on a package of incentives for natural gas and electric vehicles, an aide for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Delaying a vote on the bill will boost its chances of passing by the end of the year, said Reid spokeswoman Regan LaChapelle. While it had some bipartisan backing, the bill was not expected to win the 60 supporters needed to clear a test vote that had been set for today (E&E Daily, Nov. 15).

"There have been some positive discussions with Republicans about moving forward on the natural gas and electric vehicles legislation," LaChapelle said in an e-mail. "Senator Reid has talked to Senator [Orrin] Hatch [R-Utah] and others and thinks that vitiating the cloture vote at this point would increase the chances that we'll be able to get a bipartisan agreement to pass this important legislation before the end of the year."

Hatch and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) were co-sponsors of the bill when Reid filed for cloture on it in September. Hatch later withdrew his sponsorship.

The bill, S. 3815, would provide tax incentives and loans for the purchase and manufacturing of natural gas vehicles, grants for refueling stations and $100 million for an Energy Department program to accelerate the deployment of plug-in electric vehicles.

The sticking point on the bill appears to be a section that would raise the oil spill liability trust fund fee from 8 cents per barrel to 21 cents per barrel. That provision would help offset the bill's price tag, which Reid's office said is about $5 billion.

"Senator Hatch does not support the bill in its current form -- he believes strongly that raising taxes is exactly the wrong thing to do to pay for this bill," spokesman Antonia Ferrier said. "Moving forward, Senator Hatch is hopeful that a path forward can be found on a reasonable proposal that can garner widespread support without raising taxes."

The delay likely dashes the slim hope some held for moving other energy policy with the alternative vehicle bill, including a renewable electricity standard and the extension of blender tax credits for ethanol that expire this year (E&ENews PM, Nov. 10).

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