President Barack Obama will propose expanded tax credits and community research grants to make alternative-energy cars and trucks more attractive to buyers, White House officials said.
Electric, natural gas and hydrogen-powered vehicles would be covered by the plan, which Obama was set to announce today in the battleground state of North Carolina.
Obama planned to tour a Daimler Trucks North America plant, which has begun hiring hundreds of workers to meet demand for heavy-duty trucks, a sign of economic recovery. The plant, near Charlotte in the city of Mount Holly, has an assembly line that builds alternative fuel trucks.
Daimler Trucks North America, a unit of Daimler AG, is a partner in an Energy Department program focused on increasing the fuel efficiency of long haul, 18-wheel trucks by 50 percent by 2015. Those trucks, about 4 percent of the on-road vehicles in the U.S., account for almost 20 percent of the nation’s fuel consumption, according to the White House.
Obama will call on Congress to make two changes in tax law to coax drivers into less-polluting vehicles. One would raise the tax credit to $10,000 from $7,500 for the purchase of a so- called advanced vehicle. The credit would be applied instantly at the dealership.
The second tax change would target buyers of electric and natural gas powered commercial trucks, including semi-tractor trailers. Those vehicles would qualify for a 50 percent tax credit for half the additional cost over a conventional truck, to help overcome the initial upfront cost.
Obama will also offer a new, $1 billion program to as many as 15 U.S. cities to finance investments in clean-vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations, which would require congressional approval. The president also planned to highlight an existing research program on how to cut the cost of electric vehicles and increase their range. Lawmaker action isn’t required, though the administration is asking for an additional $650 million for the year that begins Oct. 1.
Administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe details of plans before the president’s announcement.
Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by 0.3 percent, or 14,177 votes, the first Democrat to capture the Tar Heel state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. North Carolina is also tied with Florida as having the fifth highest unemployment rate at 9.9 percent in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only Nevada, California, Rhode Island and Mississippi are worse.
“We’ve had a real hit” said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Those headline numbers have been bad and haven’t helped the administration.”
The Tar Heel state’s manufacturing sector, which accounts for one of five jobs in the state, suffered during the recession, with job losses in transportation, food and textiles among others. The state has lost about 110,000 jobs since Obama took office, government figures show.
Obama’s visit to North Carolina, the 13th of his presidency, follows an appearance by first Lady Michele Obama on March 2. By the end of last week, the campaign had opened offices in Winston-Salem and Asheville, bringing to nine the total in the state, The News & Observer reported.
“We’re looking forward to getting a lot of attention,” Taylor said. “The race will be very, very close.”
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