Bill would offer incentives for natural gas vehicles By Elizabeth Miller
Somewhere down the line, after the budget appropriations bills at the top of the agenda for the extended session in Congress this week, is the optimistically named “New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011,” HR 1380, the NAT GAS Act.
It’s been high on the Library of Congress’s list of most-researched bills for the past couple weeks, though the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on April 6 and hasn’t moved since then.
Colorado legislators with long-standing interests in the environment and clean energy are divided on the act, arguing that it provides either the only feasible solution for cleaning up the trucking industry, or that it doesn’t do enough to clean up air quality and put those costs on energy companies instead of taxpayers.
The NAT GAS Act creates or extends tax credits for the purchase or manufacture of vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas, and allocates funding for improving natural gas vehicles. The bill also requires the secretary of energy to provide funding to “improve the performance, efficiency and integration” of motor vehicles powered by natural gas. The multi-pronged approach is designed to meet the needs of manufacturers, consumers, gas station owners, according to the office of Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado.
“You’ve got to give consumers some incentives to purchase a natural gas vehicle, you’ve got to give gas station owners a little incentive to put the pump in, and then the manufacturers incentives to make it,” said Perlmutter’s deputy press secretary, Christopher Votoupal.
Perlmutter and Rep. Diana DeGette, also a Colorado Democrat, have both signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.
“It’s going to help wean us from foreign sources of oil, and we can use a domestic, cleaner burning fuel, and obviously that’s very good for Colorado,” Votoupal said.
Though there are consumer perks, the bill focuses largely on industrial use — diesel-run semi trucks that move much of the country’s freight.
“Based on all the meetings we’ve had, policy discussions, industry group meetings, you name it, natural gas is a natural fit for our trucking fleet right now,” Votoupal said.
It’s an affordable fuel — a gallon going for about $1.95 in January, according to the Department of Energy — that can power big trucks in a way electric batteries cannot. There’s an estimated 100year supply of natural gas domestically.