Lawmakers may back electric cars bill: White House advisor

WASHINGTON Thu May 26, 2011 8:55am EDT

The BMW ActiveE fully electric vehicle is plugged into a charging unit at an event to unveil the car in New York, April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The BMW ActiveE fully electric vehicle is plugged into a charging unit at an event to unveil the car in New York, April 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers may be able to pass a small energy package this year focused on popular measures such as electric cars and energy efficiency, White House energy adviser Heather Zichal said on Wednesday.

Partisan squabbling has prevented significant movement on energy legislation during the Obama administration, but lawmakers could find common ground on developing alternative fuels and reducing energy use, Zichal said.

"We have a tremendous opportunity with electrification and efficiency," Zichal said at a National Journal event on fuel efficiency. "There is bipartisan support. You could see a package where this is the base."

With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, the Obama administration has scaled back its ambitious energy agenda and turned its focus to policies that have broad backing on both sides of the aisle.

Both Democrats and Republicans are facing pressure to look active on energy issues as U.S. consumers contend with gasoline prices near record highs for this time of year, which could provide an opening for compromise.

"We want to work with both sides of the aisle," Zichal said.

A bill sponsored by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander would offer $3 billion over five years to help build infrastructure and promote the use of electric vehicles.

Components of this legislation, which is co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, could underpin a broader energy package, Zichal said when asked about the bill.

Zichal also offered praise for legislation promoting natural gas vehicles.

(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)