2011 NAT GAS Act Introduced

A PGE truck refuels with liquified natural gas. Companies like PGE would have more incentives to invest in natural gas equipment under the NAT GAS Act.

By Tom Nunlist, Associate Editor

The New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions of 2011, or NAT GAS, Act, was introduced Wednesday to provide incentives for the use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel, the purchase of natural-gas-fueled vehicles, and the installation of natural gas vehicle refueling infrastructure.

The bill was introduced by Representives John Sullivan, R-Okla., Dan Boren, D-Okla., John Larson, D-Conn., and Kevin Brady, R-Texas. The bill had 76 original co-sponsors when it was introduced.

The five-year bill is a targeted jump-start for natural gas penetration into the vehicle market, said Congressman Sullivan at a press conference following the introduction.

He stressed the fact the bill does not provide subsidies, nor does it choose a particular technology, but only provides tax credits. He also said the bill is meant to create a basis on which long-term energy policy can be built.

The proposed legislation focuses on heavy-duty trucks, both urban and over-the-road. According to Sullivan, replacing a single diesel garbage truck with natural gas is equivalent to taking 300 passenger vehicles off the road. However, the bill also provides tax incentives for passenger vehicles as well as home refueling stations.

Specifically, provisions include:

– A tax credit for up to 80 percent of the incremental cost of buying a natural gas vehicle, with a maximum value ranging from $7,500 for a light-duty passenger vehicle to $64,000 for the heaviest trucks. Bi-fuel and duel-fuel vehicles are permitted.

– A 50-cent-per-gallon fuel tax credit that is in place in 2011.

– An infrastructure tax credit of 50 percent of the cost up to a maximum tax credit of $100,000 per station. For stations built in 2011, there is an existing infrastructure tax credit of 30 percent with a maximum credit of $30,000. This credit would also extend to home refueling units, where purchases would be eligible for a $2,000 tax credit.

– A tax credit to the manufacturer for the production of natural gas vehicles. The bill also includes other provisions that will facilitate the production and use of natural gas vehicles.

The NAT GAS Act has received strong bipartisan support during a bitterly partisan budget fight. Both President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner have expressed their support for the bill. In the face of fuel prices which could top $5 per gallon later this year, Sullivan said that bill could potentially be signed into law by summer.

Larson, who is also optimistic, said the bill stands a greater chance of passing because it is far narrower than previous iterations and was shortened from 17 years to five years. Last year’s bill introduced by Rahm Emanuel was far more comprehensive, he said, which led to much partisan disagreement.

The recent events in the Middle East and the crisis in Japan have bolstered support for the bill and interest in breaking our national dependence on foreign oil. The Congressmen introducing the bill all said this bill will help reduce that dependence by providing a viable fuel which can be sourced in our own backyard. According to Brady, “It is a no-brainer.”

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