See photos from the NGV America event

WASHINGTON DC. Despite heavy cloud cover and a chilly rain, the prospects are bright for natural gas to become a “multi-dimensional solution” for transportation, economic, environmental, energy and foreign policy concerns, according to Richard Kolodziej, president of the advocacy group NGVAmerica.

“In the past we’ve only had two or three pieces of the puzzle at any one time, in terms of increasing the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel,” he told Fleet Owner here this morning at a special display of natural-gas powered cars, trucks and refueling technology held just down the street from the U.S. Capitol .

“Now, everything is coming together,” Kolodziej pointed out. “We’ve got very high oil prices of up over $110 per barrel. We’ve got unrest in the Middle East, which is the area of the world that supplies over half of our oil supply. We now have a broad array of transportation vehicles that can operate on natural gas. And now we’re establishing a nationwide refueling structure to support those vehicles.”

See video from the NGVAmerica Capitol Hill event

T. Boone Pickens, founder and chairman of BP Capital Management and a long-time proponent of natural gas as a transportation fuel, stated in remarks he made at the event that the rising cost of oil and higher fuel prices together may be finally tipping the scales of public perception in favor of natural gas.

“Every month I report on how much money our country is spending on imported oil,” he said. “March tipped the scale as [we] spent nearly $40 billion – $922,912 per minute – on imported oil, representing a staggering 72% of our oil needs. We are here today to show the country that we are doing something and that we can do a lot more to get off imported oil and onto cleaner, abundant natural gas.”

Rep. John Larson (D-CT) said that using natural gas to fuel transportation would also serve larger purposes for the nation as a whole.

“Our reliance on oil – especially imported oil – is an economic concern, an environmental concern and a foreign policy concern,” Larson said. “If we’re not persuaded by the [nuclear meltdown] in Japan following the [earthquake’s] tsunami, if we are not persuaded by the events happening in Libya and the Middle East as we speak, the question is ‘when will we be convinced?’”

Toward that very end, Larson is co-sponsoring a bill in the House of Reps. John Sullivan (R-OK), Dan Boren (D-OK) and Kevin Brady (R-TX) called the “New Alternative Transportation to Give America Solutions” Act (NAT GAS Act) that would offer limited tax credits and some federal regulatory changes to encourage the production and purchase of natural-gas fueled vehicles.

“With gasoline prices approaching $4 to $5 per gallon across the country, there is no time like the present to incorporate more natural-gas vehicles into our transportation portfolio,” said Sullivan.

“That’s one of the reasons a display like this is important,” noted NGVAmerica’s Kolodziej . “It shows everyone that natural gas can fuel a wide range of vehicles, from cars and light trucks all the way up to refuse vehicles and 18-wheelers.

See video of Ryder's Scott Perry explaining why the company is deploying a mix of LNG and CNG tractors

“Our dependence on oil has become the ‘trump card’ over everything else in transportation policy,” he added. “That’s why establishing a viable non-petroleum based transportation fuel option is a game-changer.”