Republicans and Democrats were on board with promoting alternative fuels prior to the 2007 market meltdown. Former President George W. Bush and a Republican Congress created the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership in 2002. FreedomCAR was created to develop green vehicle technology and infrastructure to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels. This program receives support from America’s Big Three automakers as well as leading fuel companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP America. The resurgent Republican Party that took over the House this month has proposed cuts to this program.
House Republicans recently proposed $2.5 trillion in spending cuts including $200 million for the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. This reduction would seriously cripple FreedomCAR given that the program’s 2010 budget was $333 million. Republicans also want to cut the federal government’s vehicle budget by 20%, representing an annual savings of $600 million per year. These cuts are eclipsed by a proposed $7.5 billion cut for the government’s travel budget, which covers reimbursement and travel costs for officials. Supporters of fuel-efficient vehicles in the Republican Party will likely ask states and private interests to support green vehicle endeavors in place of the federal government.
These cuts would counteract the Obama administration’s two-year effort to promote plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. President Obama announced in 2009 that he wanted one million plug-in hybrids on American roads by 2015. The White House received $300 million in the federal stimulus program to invest in fuel-efficient vehicles for the federal fleet. Democrats in Congress also approved $2.4 billion in grants for battery development and $25 billion for subsidized loans on consumers purchases of fuel-efficient vehicles. The progress made toward the 2015 goal would be diminished significantly if Republicans successfully cut FreedomCAR’s budget.
FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership is a crucial program for a country in serious need of a more diverse transportation system. This initiative created technology roadmaps going back to 2003 with goals for manufacturers and researchers focused on advanced vehicle technology. Researchers participating in the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership covered a broad spectrum of ideas from vehicle-to-grid communication to hydrogen fuel cells. The 21st Century Truck Partnership within FreedomCAR sought to create sustainable technology for civilian and military trucking. House Republicans are proposing cuts to FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership along with other relatively low-cost programs to avoid touching the military budget, Social Security or Medicare.