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January 3, 2013

From NASCAR to rum, the 10 weirdest parts of the 'fiscal cliff' bill

(Continued)

But the production tax credit isn't just for renewable energy sources like wind. There's also a provision, section 406, to continue subsidizing coal produced on Indian lands at about $2 per ton. Again, this isn't new. Nor is it a huge deal (it will only cost about $1 million). But it's a reminder that not all of the clean-energy provisions in the bill are entirely green.

6. Promote plug-in electric scooters.

For years, Congress has been trying to promote electric cars through various tax breaks and subsidies. But what about electric bikes and scooters? Section 403 of the bill extends a credit for "2- or 3-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles." Yes, these things do exist: The Observer recently reported that e-bikes have become ubiquitous in New York City, used for everything from Chinese food deliveries to expensive joyrides. Only problem? They might well be illegal to ride in New York, although the rules here are awfully confusing.

7. Repair the railroads

Section 306 of the fiscal cliff bill will extend a hefty tax credit to railroads for maintenance work. Congress originally passed this credit because there was a worry that many of the hundreds of "short line railroads" would abandon their small sections of track, which would in turn fracture the national shipping network. This credit costs about $165 million per year and will survive another year.

8. Subsidize Hollywood films

The fiscal cliff bill renews "special expensing rules for certain film and television productions," at a cost of some $75 million per year. Studios in Hollywood and elsewhere can deduct up to $15 million of their costs if more than three-fourths of the movie's production takes place in the United States. (They can get up to $20 million in deductions if they produce the film in a low-income community.)

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