Republican leaders in the House of Representatives reportedly want to cut in half the balance of a U.S. government fund, the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program, that was set aside to help the automotive industry develop more fuel efficient vehicles.

If the scheme to shift some $1.5 billion from the DOE's AVTM program to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) disaster relief fund is successful, serious questions would arise surrounding Chrysler's chances of ever receiving the $3 billion it's seeking in vehicle technology loans.

House Republican leader Eric Cantor, not a FEMA fan, says the government needs to prioritize spending, while his Democratic counterpart, Steny Hoyer, says the technology loan money is vital to the creation of thousands of jobs in the automotive industry. Transferring of funds from AVTM to FEMA commenced back in May when the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY12 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (pdf). As part of this bill, the Committee pushed through an amendment that added $1 billion in funding to FEMA's disaster relief fund. The Committee offset the increase in FEMA funds by swiping money directly from the DOE's AVTM program.

To date, Ford and Nissan are the only major automakers to have received funds from the AVTM program, but several smaller firms, including Fisker and Tesla, have benefited from the DOE's vehicle technology assistance program.

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