Rather to the surprise of electric-car advocates, the massive tax bill passed by the U.S. Congress in December did not eliminate the federal tax credit for purchase of a plug-in electric vehicle.
That credit lets buyers take a credit of $2,500 to $7,500 on their income-tax filing in the year of purchase.
Now, financial columnist James Stewart has suggested that improving that tax credit might possibly be an area of bipartisan agreement.
It's notable that Congress has spared federal funds for renewable energy from much of the worst of the cuts proposed by the Trump Administration, indicating support for cleaner energy and reduced carbon emissions.
In a column in The New York Times published Friday, Stewart laid out a few changes Congress could make to improve the program.
Those stem from the realization that Tesla and General Motors are likely to reach the cap of 200,000 qualifying vehicles sold sometime in the next 12 to 18 months—depending on each company's plug-in car sales this year.
One of two 1909 Studebaker electric cars built for underground use [Architect of the U.S. Capitol]
While U.S. incentives pale in comparison to those of, say, Norway, "revising the electric-vehicle tax credit and bolstering other incentives for renewable energy could be a rare source of bipartisan agreement," Stewart wrote.
He notes that clean energy now employs more U.S. workers (3.38 million) than does the fossil-fuel extraction, refining, and distribution industry (2.99 million). And jobs are always a concern for politicians.
Stewart suggests some possible changes to the electric-vehicle tax credit, which has been in place since the waning days of the George W. Bush administration in 2008.
The 200,000 cap could be lifted to extend them indefinitely, he writes, or they could start to phase out after a certain date or when a total number of plug-in vehicles have been sold by all manufacturers.
Wind farm outside Fort MacLeod, Alberta, Canada [photographer: Joel Bennett]
Some of those suggestions have long been proposed by electric-car advocates like Chelsea Sexton, who wrote in November that supporters should not fight just to retain the credit but to improve it.
Sources in D.C. suggested to Stewart that the reason it survived was largely the influence of Senator Chuck Grassley [R-IA], a staunch supporter of renewable energy, especially wind—which is already well established in his state.
READ THIS: When do electric-car tax credits expire?
U.S. politics is at such an unusual point these days that Congress is faced once again with simply trying to agree on legislation to keep the federal government open and operating.
Whether bipartisan opportunities to refine one specific tax policy benefiting what remains a small slice of the overall new-vehicle market will rise to the surface clearly remains in doubt. But it's nice to think that it might, no?
[hat tip: Arum]