President Obama Wednesday announced $1 billion in tax credits and grants (Guardian) for alternative-energy cars and trucks while visiting a North Carolina auto plant. If approved by Congress, the tax credits would help up to fifteen cities and towns pay for charging stations for electric cars and biofuel pumps for alternative fuel vehicles to encourage people to switch to electric cars. Obama is also asking Congress to expand the tax credit for advanced vehicles to $10,000 from $7,500, and to include natural gas under the program.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much natural gas or flex-fuel or electric vehicles you have if there’s no place to charge them up or fill them up,” Obama said. He also noted that a country that owns 2 percent of global oil reserves and uses 20 percent of the world’s oil can’t drill its way out of high gas prices.
A debate over gas prices is sparking on the campaign trail. GOP candidate Mitt Romney, in response to the Obama announcement (LAT), said the energy policy that needs to be pursued is increasing production domestically, including more drilling offshore and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for drilling.
Republican candidate Newt Gingrich has made several comments about his energy policies bringing gas prices down to $2.50 per gallon and is asking supporters to tweet #250gas.
CFR’s Michael Levi takes a look at what gas rising prices really mean in the 2012 race. And the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted Wednesday that the Republican National Committee has asked the party faithful to take up the issue of high gas prices — in spite of the fact that domestic oil output has sharply increased “to the highest level in nearly a decade and is expected to continue expanding.”
GOP candidates, President Obama, and voters see tensions with Iran over its nuclear program and Tehran’s threats to close the oil route through the Straits of Hormuz as one of the causes for rising gas prices as tension continues to grow. The United Nations Security Council released a statement Thursday (CNN) calling for a sustained dialogue with Iran without preconditions. Though Iran offered on Tuesday to let international nuclear inspectors in – after details are agreed upon – reports came Wednesday that satellite images show a cleanup project (AP) at Iran’s suspected nuclear site, a possible indication that a nuclear-weapon trigger has already been tested.
The GOP candidates have had strong words for Iran, with threats running the gamut of further sanctions to military action. President Obama has said there is still time for diplomacy.
– Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson