Obama Backing $6 Billion Bill for Electric Cars

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration on Tuesday backed a proposal to spend up to $6 billion more on subsidies for electric vehicles, amid renewed interest on Capitol Hill in measures to cut petroleum consumption in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The proposals include more spending for research and development of car-battery technology, aid to utilities and homeowners to build recharging outlets, and consumer tax credits to offset the higher costs of battery-electric vehicles.

A bill drafted by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Jeff Alan Merkley (D., Ore.) calls for the additional spending, and includes a provision that would establish up to 15 "development" communities to receive funds for infrastructure and other programs for plug-ins.

The auto industry has sought more federal spending for electric cars, such as the coming Chevrolet Volt.

"The rest of the world is moving up quickly on this technology," David Sandalow, the Energy Department's assistant secretary for policy and international affairs, told a Senate hearing Tuesday. "The question before us is whether the United States will lead in this technology."

The proposal has drawn criticism from auto makers, which worry that it focuses on electric vehicles at the expense of other alternative technologies, and from Republicans who cite the need to cut government spending.

Democrats may seek to attach the legislation to an energy bill that could be taken up later this year, Sen. Dorgan said in an interview.

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