Clean car commission bill advances

TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released S2198, a bill that would establish a clean car commission to study numerous related issues. The bill sponsored by Chairman Sen. Bob Smith was released unanimously.

The issue, as witnesses summarized it: Consumer acceptance of such vehicles has not been as robust as the industry would like, and the auto industry has to increase production of hybrids and plug-ins over the coming years despite that problem. They account for about 2 percent of sales right now.

The government can mandate more fuel-efficient cars, and companies can manufacture them but without anyone to buy them the effort will fail, witnesses and committee members acknowledged.

But Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club said that in addition to the environmental benefits, the push for cleaner cars will improve the economy and create jobs, in sales, warehousing and manufacturing.  He argued that if the infrastructure is in place, the customer demand will be there.

The bill was the prelude to a discussion today before the committee on a raft of bills – not being voted on – dealing with numerous aspects of hybrid and electric cars, charging stations, and tax breaks related to them.

Matthew Irwin of Mazda North American and Laura Dooley of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers spoke in favor of the commission bill as well.

They both referenced the mandate requiring a certain number of zero emission vehicles be manufactured necessitates such a clean car commission to review these and other issues and lead to policies that might help get into place needed infrastructure to support the move toward “cleaner” vehicles.

New Jersey is one of 14 states included under a federal effort to meet zero emission standards in coming years.

Clean car commission bill advances