Electric cars get renewed push on Capitol Hill

Amanda Carey Contributor
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American Values President Gary Bauer and former Commandant of the Marine Corps General James T. Conway are teaming up in support of electric vehicles.

Bauer and Conway are part of the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and military leaders put together by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). SAFE is focused on reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and finding an energy alternative. The council is chaired by FedEx President and CEO Fred Smith and General P.X. Kelley, former Marine Corps Commandant and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

With pages of statistics and a realistic take on America’s dependence on oil, members of the ESLC lobby elected officials for an effective alternative energy policy. They argue that dependence on oil threatens America’s national and economic security.

The council is currently focused on lobbying elected officials to support the Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2011, sponsored by Republican Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois and Democratic Reps. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Anna Eshoo of California.

The legislation seeks to solve two of the biggest problems that plague electric vehicle technology: infrastructure and cost to the consumer.

First, the bill sets up a competitive grant program that would be run by the Department of Energy. Ten regions around the country would be selected for funding to develop “deployment communities.” The communities would then use their DOE grant to build the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles.

To incentivize consumers, a minimum of a $2,000 tax credit will be offered. Moreover, an already existing credit for charging infrastructure would be extended, as well as loan support for manufacturers of electric vehicles and the use of advanced batteries in stationary locations.

Essentially, the “development communities” are intended to jumpstart a market demand for electric vehicles, and serve as models for the rest of the country.

A similar version of the bill — Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2011 — was introduced in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

So far, electric vehicles have not caught on in the U.S. in any significant way. Though sales of electric cars like GM’s Volt and Nissan’s Leaf are slowly picking up, sales figures even just two months ago were dismal.

Other members of the ESLC include Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean; Admiral Dennis C. Blair, U.S. Navy (Ret.); John Lehman, former Secretary to the U.S. Navy; and Herbert Kelleher, Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines.