Reid Energy Bill: No $ for Transit, Billions for Electric and Natural Gas Cars

It seems that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not only given up on a carbon cap in this year’s energy bill, but also ruled out provisions promoting transit and smart growth. In Reid’s effort to pass an energy bill this year, even a weak bill, advocates say that chances to include major transportation reforms don’t look promising.

harry_reid_rotunda2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Photo: LV City Life

A large part of the bill Reid introduced yesterday, officially known as the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act of 2010 [PDF] is devoted to oil spill cleanup. The only section that mentions transportation encourages the expansion of plug-in electric and natural gas vehicles, with billions of dollars in incentives for consumers and federal and commercial fleets. Neither of those methods of personal transportation do enough to address the core goals of averting catastrophic climate change and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The batteries in electric vehicles are often powered by coal, and natural gas is a finite resource.

What happened to the idea of including language to support smart growth and invest in transit? After Reid said last week that the Democrats didn’t have the votes for a comprehensive energy bill, advocates expected a watered-down version. But some still hoped for a chance to offer amendments drawn from the Oil Independence Bill introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and others last month.

Transit advocates are less sanguine now. “It seems likely that Senator Reid will probably not allow amendments to the bill,” said Smart Growth America policy associate Stephanie Potts. “We’ll wait and see.”

Her comment was echoed by Colin Peppard, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s deputy director of federal transportation policy. “It’s a pretty limited package,” he said. “It seems like the opportunity for moving something broader and more meaningful has been closed off for the time being.”

But “there are still plenty of opportunities” to introduce legislation for transit support this year, said Peppard. “It’s a full schedule, but it’s our job to put pressure on” Congress for those issues.

Merkley’s spokesman Mike Westling hedged his bets. “I’m sure it’s something we’ll look at,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

A source on Capitol Hill said the likelihood is low that transit provisions will make the final cut in the energy bill, because Reid wants to get it passed before Congress leaves for its August recess. But Merkley and Delaware Senator Tom Carper are still hoping to push elements of the CLEAN TEA legislation — which tied climate goals to smarter transportation and land use planning — perhaps as part of the eventual overhaul of the national transportation bill.

  • Elliot

    I was happy to see Merkley taking after Blumenauer in the Oregon delegation… too bad this opportunity was missed to get some transpo legislation credits under his belt.

  • I wonder if being from Nevada has clouded his perspective on this issue.

  • JK

    Isn’t Chuck Schumer one of the top three Dems in the Senate? Doesn’ he live in Brooklyn and represent about a third of US transit riders? H’mm. Six billion in tax breaks for alt fuel cars while the US transit system collapses. Not encouraging.

  • Bolwerk

    Yep. And like fellow cretins such as Carl Kruger and Anthony Weiner, Schumer is nearly as hostile to the interests of the people of New York as the Republikans.

    Really, with friends like the Dems….

  • Larry Littlefield

    The Bush Administration pushed through an energy bill, too. Don’t you remember it? After admitting the U.S. was addicted to oil, and while fighting two wars in an oil financed part of the world hostile to the United States, the federal government took action.

    It changed the date of Daylight Savings Time. Again.

    Analysis later showed this may have led to more energy use. We had just bought two clocks with a feature we didn’t want — automatic adjustment for daylight savings time. We now have to change the clocks four times a year: twice after the automatic adjustment on the wrong date, and twice more on the new date.

    Now the Democrats are doing something that is little different. What does that mean?

    Perhaps all our pols are spineless whiners incapable of supporting any real change that produced short term costs and inconveniences, however small, for long term gains. Or perhaps that is true of large numbers of Americans.

  • Brandi

    Congress is obsessed with cars. In addition to doing this, they increased highway spending and slashed high speed rail and intercity rail transit in the FY 2011 budget. This is despite the huge demand for these grants and the huge increases in transit ridership. Pretty discouraging.

  • In all reality, they need to increase funding for ALL modes (highway/rail/bike-ped/etc).

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Senate Approves Stimulus Bill — On to Conference Committee

|
Transportation Enhancements funding helped to expand Roberto Clemente Plaza at the Bronx Hub. The League of American Bicyclists has issued an action alert to keep that program in the stimulus bill. The Senate approved its version of the stimulus bill this afternoon by a 61-37 vote. Attention now turns to conference committee negotiations, where differences […]