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Alternative Fuels and Advanced Technology Vehicles: Issues in Congress

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Publication Date: February 2009

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33564

Topic: Energy (Fuels)


Alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles are seen by proponents as integral to improving urban air quality, decreasing dependence on foreign oil, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. However, major barriers -- especially economics -- currently prevent the widespread use of these fuels and technologies. Because of these barriers, and the potential benefits, there is continued congressional interest in providing incentives and other support for their development and commercialization.

In the 110th Congress, alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles have received a good deal of attention, especially in discussions over U.S. energy security. In his January 24, 2007, State of the Union Address, President Bush called for the increased use of renewable and alternative motor fuels to 35 billion gallons annually by 2017. U.S. consumption was roughly 5 billion gallons in 2006. Therefore, such an initiative would mean a seven-fold increase in the use of these fuels over 11 years.

In the fall of 2005, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast led to disruptions in refining capacity and oil supply, which then led to higher gasoline and diesel prices. Since then, some Members of Congress have been seeking ways to reduce the vulnerability of the fuel system. High crude oil and gasoline prices in spring and summer 2006 further increased interest in moving away from a petroleum-based transportation system.

The 109th Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58, H.R. 6), which contains many provisions relevant to alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles. Among its provisions, the act expanded existing tax incentives for the purchase of advanced vehicles, authorized R&D funding for hydrogen fuel and fuel cells, and required that the nationwide gasoline supply contain a minimum amount of ethanol or other renewable fuel. H.R. 6 was signed by President Bush on August 8, 2005.

This report replaces CRS Issue Brief IB10128, Alternative Fuels and Advanced Technology Vehicles: Issues in Congress, by Brent D. Yacobucci and supersedes CRS Report RL33564.


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