In the Pipeline: 3/3/11

Sing along! 10,000 Volts on the lot, 10,000 Volts. Take one down, drive it around, 9,999 Volts on the lot Auto Blog (3/2/11) reports: Peruse Chevrolet’s February sales release, and you ‘ll notice one number that’s blatantly missing: the number of Chevy Volts sold. The number – a very modest 281 – is available in the company’s detailed data (PDF), but it certainly isn’t something that GM wants to highlight, apparently. Keeping the number quiet is a bit understandable, since it’s lower than the 321 that Chevy sold in January…Nissan doesn’t have anything to brag about here, either (and it didn’t avoiding any mention of the Leaf sales in its press release). Why? Well, back in January, the company sold 87 Leafs. In February? Just 67. Where does that leave us? Well, here’s the big scorecard for all sales of these vehicles thus far:

* Volt: 928     * Leaf: 173

Ouch. The big questions, of course, revolve around one word: “Why?” Is ramping up production and deliveries still a problem? Is demand weak? Are unscrupulous dealers to blame? When will sales start to climb? And what are these numbers doing to plug-in vehicle work at other automakers? We don’t know all the answers, but for more on February auto sales, click here.

It’s the gas prices, stupid. Obama Administration realizes they can peddle green energy if fossil fuels are expensive and volatile Associated Press (3/2/11) reports: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars…But the recent rise in gasoline prices has been primarily driven by unrest in the Middle East, particularly Libya, where protests have diminished crude oil production…Barbour cited 2008 comments from Steven Chu, now President Barack Obama’s energy secretary, that a gradual increase in gasoline taxes could coax consumers into dumping their gas-guzzlers and finding homes closer to where they work. Chu, then a Nobel Prize-winning professor, argued that higher costs per gallon could force investments in alternative fuels and spur cleaner energy sources…”This administration’s policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive,” Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House.

Kenny “No Permits” Salazar says he needs more money if Congress wants more drilling; And next week on The Sopranos, Paulie Walnuts not so subtly reminds Phil Leotardo that his crew is late on their interest payments. The Hill (3/2/11) reports: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday that accelerating the pace of offshore oil drilling permit approvals will be heavily dependent on receiving more funding…The department is asking Congress for a major cash infusion for offshore oil-and-gas oversight, in part to substantially increase the staff for reviewing permits at a time when Interior is requiring drillers to meet toughened safety standards…Asked by a reporter when the pace of permitting might return to levels seen before the blowout of BP’s Macondo well last year, Salazar replied: “So much of it depends on this budget. If we can’t get the horsepower to be able to process permits under what now is a greater degree of scrutiny, we may never return to the pre-Macondo rate of permitting.”…He spoke to reporters after testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Interior is under heavy political pressure from Republicans and some Democrats to speed up permitting for both deepwater and shallow-water projects.

Speaking our language: Senator Inhofe wants to cut green tape and put Americans back to work. Unlike most U.S. Senators, we know he means it. Fuel Fix (3/2/11) reports: Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said Wednesday that regulating greenhouse gas emissions should not be an EPA priority…“If we want to make strides in improving public health, we won’t do it by regulating carbon dioxide,” Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a prepared statement during a Senate hearing on President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget for the agency. “It’s not a real pollutant—despite what EPA says.”…Instead, he said, more attention should be aimed toward regulating “real pollution,” such as sulfur dioxide and particulate matter…The EPA’s GHG regulation is a “carbon regime” that needs to be eliminated, Inhofe said…Earlier this week, the senator released the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, legislation that would permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. Inhofe and the co-author of the bill, House Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said they have been working with moderate Democrats in recent weeks to win some bipartisan support…Arguing in favor of the EPA, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., defended the federal agency’s decision to set emission limits on the greenhouse gases blamed by many scientists for global warming. EPA “can act to protect to public from all pollution—including pollution related to climate change,” she contended.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat—Rep. Peterson signs on with Rep. Whitfield’s REINS Act and EPA’s Alaska Freeze convinces Senator Murkowski to finally put the bit in the runaway horse’s mouth. Politico (3/2/11) reports: House Republicans can claim “bipartisanship” in their bid to handcuff the EPA’s climate change rules…Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will be co-sponsoring the legislation from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) that puts a freeze on EPA’s regulatory agenda for major industrial polluters like power plants and petroleum refiners…”The EPA needs to be reined in,” said Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and a frequent critic of the agency…Upton and Whitfield, the chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee, have been offering small changes to their bill in their courtship of moderate and conservative Democrats like Peterson. Support from House Democrats, they hope, will put pressure on Senate Democrats and the Obama White House to accept their legislation…”We want to get as many as we can, and we have reason to believe we’ll have a number of Democrats,” Whitfield told reporters…House GOP aides were still trying to put a full list together of House Democratic co-sponsors as of late Wednesday and couldn’t confirm additional names. But the field of potential Democrats numbers around 13, considering the list of lawmakers who crossed the aisle during last month’s floor vote on anti-EPA language attached to the fiscal 2011 spending bill.



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