There are a lot of bad policy ideas dreamed up on a daily basis on Capitol Hill, and many get turned into bills by Congressmen. Thankfully, most of these bills go nowhere. But occasionally, a policy streaker comes out of left field and makes a heady gambit for prime-time exposure and a floor vote in either the House or the Senate.
A bill often becomes “a streaker” when the number of its co-sponsors start ramping up rapidly, either because of a political interest back home in various districts, a well-heeled coalition of lobbyists, or the simple fact that members and their staff are not paying sufficient attention to a bill’s merits.
Rep. John Sullivan’s H.R. 1380, the New Alternative Transportation to Give America Solutions Act is a streaker, and it needs to be stopped. It has 179 cosponsors, nearly half of which are Republican. And when a bill begins to get this much bipartisan support, it makes it difficult for House Leadership to keep the bill off the floor.
Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has called it the T. Boone Pickens earmark bill. It creates and expands a host of tax credits to subsidize the use of vehicles that run on natural gas, whether it’s the fuel, the purchase of a natural gas vehicle, the production of a natural gas vehicle, the infrastructure needed to fuel a natural gas vehicle, and so on. Of course, such tax incentives distort the market, complicate the tax code, insert the political class into the decision making process over whether natural gas is better than other forms of energy, and create a new class of beneficiaries reliant on the federal government to stay afloat. The bill also includes more than just tax subsidies. Section 401 of the bill directs the Department of Energy “to improve the performance and efficiency and integration of natural gas powered motor vehicles and heavy-duty on-road vehicles” through its current grant programs.
H.R. 1380 is nothing more than good old-fashioned corporate welfare. Members should oppose its passage. Members who have co-sponsored it already should remove their support (great job, Rep. Steve Pearce, for doing just that yesterday!). And overall, conservatives in Congress should be very clear that when they support an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, they mean to allow all-of-the-above energy to be tapped—not subsidized.