School Bus OEMs Content With Federal Energy Bill, Even With Last Minute Changes

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To ensure the passage of the Energy and Security Act of 2007, the House had to compromise on some issues to get the bill passed through the Senate and ultimately convince President Bush to put pen to paper. Gone from the final law are a tax credit for new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles as well as other alternative energy tax incentives. But that hasn’t stopped bus OEMs from supporting the federal government’s next step in “going green.”

“We’re thrilled the federal government is actually putting some serious dollars where they’ve talked about before, but never really put into action,” said David Hillman, marketing director for IC Corp, pointing out that in the end, “a tax break doesn’t help out a school district, it helps big contractors.”

One program that could still benefit school districts is the Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Program. The new law establishes a program that would provide grants on a cost-shared basis to state governments and local governments for projects that encourage the use of plug-in electric drive vehicles or other emerging electric vehicle technologies. With the introduction of IC’s hybrid in 2007 and the upcoming 2010 EPA engine emission standards, this program could benefit a number of states.

“It will provide competitive grants to encourage the use of plug-in electric drive vehicles with $90 million a year for over four years, 2008-2012,” added Hillman. Blue Bird is also pleased with the bill’s passage and is ready to work in step with the updated standards.

“Blue Bird has long provided its customers a choice in alternative fuel power, will remain in step with the initiatives, and looks forward to continued incentives in support of this effort,” said Blue Bird’s Director of Marketing Ron Smith.

A representative from Thomas Built Buses passed on the opportunity to comment on the ratified energy bill.

The new law has also been lauded by other industries as a major step forward in the country’s effort to heal some of the effects of global warming and ease our dependence on foreign oil. A 40 percent increase in automotive fuel efficiency to 35 mpg by the year 2020 has the support of two major automobile manufacturers.

“The new fuel economy standards within the bill set a tough, national target that GM will strive to meet,” state Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors, in a press release on the company’s Web site. “We will focus our engineering and technical resources to attain these standards and we remain hard at work applying the innovation and developing the advanced technologies that will power tomorrow’s cars and trucks.”

“We’re thrilled the federal government is actually putting some serious dollars where they’ve talked about before, but never really put into action.” — David Hillman, IC Corp

The Ford Motor Company is also on board.

“This legislation will provide one clear requirement for increasing fuel economy and provide greater certainty for our product planning,” read a Ford press release. “Ford is committed to providing safer, more fuel efficient, quality products – in high volume – that customers want and value.”

Although reduced from its initial levels, an increase in the production of biofuels also survived the trip through the Senate. The Illinois Farm Bureau is just one of the organizations that understands the “realistic” increase to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022.

“There are groups out there that would like to see a larger booked renewable fuels standard, but we’ve back off on that because we feel that over the past 30 years we’ve always had to prove ourselves and if we can meet the demands and prove ourselves, then we can move forward,” said IFA News Service Director John Hawkins. “We don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver.”

Reprinted from the February 2008 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.