Advocates of the T. Boone Pickens-backed NAT GAS Act have again introduced legislation that singles out only one alternative - natural gas - for federal incentives while excluding all other alternative fuels. The New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act (NAT GAS) will, if passed as written, represent a one-sided victory for the Pickens Plan that blatantly excludes other American-made vehicle fuel alternatives such as propane autogas.
Autogas for America founder Stuart Weidie sees the NAT GAS Act as another example of lobbyists getting in the way of innovation that would truly enhance our nation's energy security.
"If Boone and his team of lobbyists were serious about American energy security, they would include other American-made alternative fuels like propane autogas in their push for incentives," says Weidie. "Natural gas is an abundant natural resource, but it's not our only clean-burning alternative to gasoline and diesel. The NAT GAS Act doesn't give Americans solutions; it crowns a single solution as the victor."
America's propane autogas is 90% domestically produced, with more than 60% coming from domestic natural gas refining. Just like natural gas, propane autogas is a clean-burning fuel with a high octane rating. It is also significantly cheaper than gasoline or diesel: fleets operating vehicles on autogas benefit from an average savings of more than $1 per gallon versus gasoline.
"Natural gas may be appropriate for certain heavy duty applications, but it cannot compete with autogas when it comes to lighter trucks and passenger vehicles," says Weidie. "Autogas yields significant cost savings and emissions reductions, and is far more cost effective to implement."
An autogas fueling station can be installed for about $50,000, while a compressed natural gas fueling station can cost ten times that, or more. Weidie explains that, on the basis of total cost per ton of carbon dioxide reduced, autogas is superior to natural gas and is already gaining wide acceptance in public and private vehicle fleets across the country.
"Autogas will play an important role in a balanced energy equation for America," he says. "The only question remaining is whether autogas will be unreasonably hindered by special interest legislation that unfairly favors natural gas."
Autogas for America believes the NAT GAS Act, in its current form, poorly serves both the American public and American businesses.
"Our legislature should not manipulate the market by giving a special interest advantage to one solution," says Weidie. "They should recognize that taxpayers want multiple clean-fuel options to reduce harmful emissions and replace oil imports with affordable, American-made energy. The NAT GAS Act is an example of legislative cherry picking, the kind of legislation that skews the natural selection process that otherwise enables innovation in a free market economy."
The importance of having true alternatives in the clean-fuel sector was underscored last week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a streamlined certification process for aftermarket alternative fuel conversion systems. The updated EPA regulations make it easier for companies to offer alternative fuel conversions for a broad range of vehicle makes and models. Also last week, the Department of Energy together with the White House announced the National Clean Fleets Partnership, which highlighted the need for fleets to adopt "advanced technology vehicles or ones that use alternative fuels, such as electricity, natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, or propane."
Weidie says, "Alternative fuel legislation should encourage the use of American-made fuels to curb our dependence on foreign oil and enhance energy security."