Natural gas bill gets Pickens’ approval, and should get trucking’s

T. Boone Pickens is at it again. The entrepreneur, who is a proponent of wind power and alternative fuels, has thrown his support behind the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act, introduced into the U.S. Senate by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

freightliner.jpgThe bill is designed to promote natural gas through the extension of tax credits for vehicle purchases, including trucks, and infrastructure improvements by 10 years. The bill provides credits for 80% of the price difference between a natural-gas only vehicle and a non-natural gas equivalent and 50% credit for a vehicle that can run on natural gas or gasoline.

According to Bloomberg News, the credits could amount to as much as $12,500 for passenger cars and light trucks, and $64,000 for trucks.

Pickens told Bloomberg Television he thinks the bill will pass right after Congress’ August recess.

“We saw last summer how the wild fluctuations in oil prices helped to wreck our economy,” said Menendez. “By making it easier and cheaper to own a vehicle that runs on natural gas, we can help families save money on energy, create new manufacturing jobs and clean our air.”

While natural gas is not the end-all solution for trucking, one obstacle that exists – for the industry as well as for the automotive industry – is the price. There is little infrastructure in place in the U.S. to support natural gas vehicles and as a result, sales are low and that means higher purchase prices.

Most major truck OEMs now offer natural gas tractors, and natural gas fueling stations have begun to open near the California ports, where the fuel is most commonly used. That’s a positive.

Another positive, according to reports, is that the legislation would provide tax credits up to 100% of the cost, or $100,000, to build refueling stations. Now that’s an incentive. And the more refueling stations available, the more companies that will take advantage of natural gas and drive the purchase price down.

That’s good for everyone.

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