WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives plans to vote, possibly as early as next week, on a bill to use fuel economy fines to pay for installing ethanol pumps at filling stations.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill Tuesday.
The bill and a number of other measures dealing with fuel prices and supply are expected to be considered by the full House next week. Republican leaders have dubbed it "energy week" in the House.
The votes are expected to come just before lawmakers head home for Independence Day and again encounter constituents steamed about $3-a-gallon gasoline.
The bill on fuel economy fines would "kick start" expansion of the distribution system for E85, says Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the bill's sponsor.
E85 is fuel that is 85 percent ethanol -- generally made from U.S.-grown corn -- and 15 percent gasoline.
Automakers, especially the Big 3, increasingly are touting E85 as a remedy for the nation's energy woes. Automakers already have built more than 5 million vehicles capable of using E85 and are adding about 1 million more each year. But the fuel is available at about 750 of the 170,000 filling stations in the country.
Rogers says his bill, funding $30,000 grants to independent stations rather than oil companies, could double the number of E85 pumps in a year.
Automakers whose fleets do not meet federal corporate average fuel economy standards, or CAFE, pay fines. The amounts vary from year to year, but Rogers estimates that about $20 million a year would be available.
Historically, the makers of BMW and Mercedes-Benz vehicles have paid the heaviest fines.
Which energy bills, if any, would become law eventually is unclear. Congress -- deeply divided politically and just four months from elections that could tip the balance of power -- is struggling to agree on its response to gasoline at $3 a gallon.
Other bills approved by the committee Tuesday would:
- Create a program to educate consumers on how to use less fuel
- Provide consumers with information on fuel-saving tires.
Some Democrats on the panel scoffed that the bills are mere "baby steps," but all were approved on apparently unanimous voice votes.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]