EDITOR'S NOTE: This is among a series of new National Journal Insiders Polls that explore the policy and political dynamics surrounding key issues related to national security, the economy, energy, and the environment.
Amid an ongoing debate about rising gas prices and increased tensions in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, President Obama plans to outline the country’s energy security plan this week, which is sure to include an emphasis on electric vehicles.
(OBAMA'S FULL SPEECH: 'There Are No Quick Fixes')
Obama will lay out the strategy at Georgetown University on Wednesday and will deliver remarks at a UPS shipping facility on Friday, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Energy Secretary Steven Chu looking on as he tours clean-energy vehicles at the company’s Landover, Md., facility.
As he has before, Obama is expected to highlight his goal of putting one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 as a means of reducing the United States' dependence on foreign oil.
But National Journal’s Energy and Environment Insiders say that getting Congress to agree on any legislation to promote these efforts is going to be tough.
Fifty-four percent of respondents said that legislation to promote or subsidize electric cars is “not very likely” in this Congress, citing the reluctance of House members to sign onto anything that would require more government spending.
Some Insiders, roughly 21 percent, went as far as saying that prospects are “very unlikely” for that very reason.
“Any meaningful action to promote or subsidize electric cars will add to the federal deficit, and there will be too much opposition from budget hawks during this Congress,” one Insider said.
So as Obama pushes, Insiders say Congress will push back.
Despite the issue being considered “a rare bipartisan sweet spot,” as one Insider noted, concerns over the budget and deficit will take the front seat.
What is the likelihood that Congress will enact legislation in this session to promote or subsidize electric cars?
- Very Likely 6%
- Somewhat Likely 17%
- Not Very Likely 53%
- Very Unlikely 21%
- Volunteered 2%
“Assuming Congress moves anything energy related, electric-vehicle legislation is a rare, bipartisan sweet spot. EVs are fundamental to energy security, and a tangible, new energy technology.”
“If some form of comprehensive energy legislation is enacted, the odds are high (3:1 or 4:1) that there would be some form of provision promoting EVs. The real question is whether there is an energy bill. I think the odds are low, but rising—the House leadership and relevant House committee chairman made it clear they had no interest in energy legislation at the beginning of the year. There was interest on the Senate side from both [Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff] Bingaman and [Energy ranking member Lisa] Murkowski, but their committee membership had changed dramatically in one year (<40 percent turnover) and the apparent House disinterest in legislation made the Senate reluctant to charge ahead—but Congress reacts to public opinion, and higher gasoline prices may spur Congress to "do something" on energy legislation.”
“The range of possibilities to promote or subsidize electric cars is so broad, that something is likely to be done, even in this session.”
Not Very Likely
“Given the (thankfully) current aversion to government subsidies and promotions in lieu of traditional market forces, some R&D funding for batteries and infrastructure is about as far as EVs will get this session.”
“With the stalling of [nuclear energy], the electric vehicle is also doomed to being a coal-fired electricity user and people will come to understand why the National Academy of Sciences report on the externalities of energy found EVs to be the dirtiest and most hazardous to our health option...”
“We could see some transportation-oriented efforts in response to the price of gasoline, but getting agreement is always tough.”
“Only possible if Boehner follows thru on his pledge to do small-size pieces of energy.”
“Not very likely, maybe a continued tax credit.”
“New subsidies are dead.”
“Any meaningful action to promote or subsidize electric cars will add to the federal deficit, and there will be too much opposition from budget hawks during this Congress.”
“Giving handouts to big city yuppies won't fly in the House”
“There is no money for anything.”
“The subsidies that have existed for hybrids will be reauthorized and be inclusive of plug-in hybrids. No expansion of subsidy level, though.”
National Journal’s Energy and Environment Insiders Poll is a periodic survey of energy policy experts. They include:
Jeff Anderson, Paul Bailey, Kenneth Berlin, Denise Bode, Kevin Book, David Brown, Neil Brown, Stephen Brown, Kateri Callahan, McKie Campbell, Guy Caruso, Paul Cicio, Douglas Clapp, Eileen Claussen, Steve Cochran, Phyllis Cuttino, Kyle Danish, Lee Dehihns, Robbie Diamond, Bob Dinneen, Sean Donahue, David Doniger, Jeff Duncan, John Felmy, Mike Ference, David Foster, Josh Freed, Don Furman, Paul Gilman, Richard Glick, Kate Gordon, Chuck Gray, Jason Grumet, Christopher Guith, Lewis Hay, Jeff Holmstead, David Holt, Skip Horvath, Bob Irvin, Bill Johnson, Gene Karpinski, Joseph T. Kelliher, Brian Kennedy, Kevin Knobloch, David Kreutzer, Fred Krupp, Tom Kuhn, Mindy Lubber, Drew Maloney, Roger Martella, John McArther, Mike McKenna, Bill McKibben, David Miller, Kristina Moore, Richard Myers, Aric Newhouse, Frank O'Donnell, Mike Olson, T. Boone Pickens, Hal Quinn, Rhone Resch, Barry Russell, Joseph Schultz, Bob Simon, Scott Sklar, Bill Snape, Jeff Sterba, Christine Tezak, Susan Tierney, Andrew Wheeler, Brian Wolff, and Todd Young.