E85/CNG/Hydrogen Fuel Cell Boondoggle Of The Day: Mandatory Pumps for Big Oil Gas Stations
Original Autoblogger Reverend David Thomas over at Cars.com has been combing through HR 6899 (warning: 290 page pdf), a Democratic-sponsored energy bill passed last night by the House of Representatives. Included in the text: provisions for limited offshore and Alaskan drilling and oil shale field exploitation exploration. A provision starting on page 177 requires that gas stations owned by Big Oil companies each have at least one alternative fuel pump by 2018. There’s a carrot ($50k tax-credit) and stick ($100k penalty) for each station. Alt-fuels are defined as E85 (or even more ethanol), compressed natural gas (CNG), diesel (of at least 20 percent bio or other renewable source) and hydrogen. So, where to begin with this lobbyist and re-election friendly clause? We’ve already stated the reluctance of independent chains to fork out the $50k cost of installing E85 pumps. CNG and hydrogen face huge chicken-and-egg problems: you want to buy or lease a new vehicle right now? (How much above MSRP?) Honda will produce just 1500 CNG-inhaling Civic GX’s for MY2009, and forget about getting a Clarity FCX unless you already own won a pair of Golden Globes. Anyhow, ExxonMobil is planning to get out of the gas station business because it’s not profitable enough. If the bill becomes law, don’t be surprised if the other majors follow suit to avoid having to fork out millions. Big if: the bill has yet to be voted on by the Senate. President Bush has promised a veto in the bill’s current form, and it passed the House by a less than a 60 percent (veto-proof) majority.
Banger on Sep 18, 2008
So we'll see higher fuel taxes to make this happen? Oh well. If you couldn't predict higher fuel taxes after witnessing that no, Virginia, the economy didn't collapse with $2, $3, $4, or even in some places $5 gas and diesel, then you're pretty short-sighted. With infrastructure crumbling (I-35W bridge just reopened, a year later), freight haulers asking for relaxed weight restrictions (more weight= more wear and tear on roads and bridges), and a reeling Highway Trust Fund, it should come as little surprise that-- with this bill or without it-- gas taxes will probably go up to more realistically reflect the demand for infrastructure upkeep in this paved nation of ours. It's sort of like going to war and then announcing a big tax cut. Doesn't make sense, and puts you in the red. So why continue to have some of the lowest fuel taxes of all modern industrialized nations while struggling to pay for the upkeep (let alone new construction of) roads? Just like you said, there is no free lunch. I'd rather my increased fuel taxes be used to help something like decreasing our use of "free market" oil, as the B20 provision would easily and relatively painlessly help us do, than to see my increased fuel taxes go to a Highway Trust Fund "lock box" (remember that term from Social Security?) and watch it get siphoned away on useless Bridges to Nowhere. But you mark my words, one way or another, once the government has seen our ability to pay for high-cost fuel, we will see higher fuel taxes if and when prices return to sanity-- which is coming sooner than later, with oil on a quick descent as speculators and hedge fundies finally get their grubby paws out of commodities markets.
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