|Oklahoma Congressmen Dan Boren and John Sullivan have introduced a revised version of legislation designed to boost use of natural gas, with hopes that President Barack Obama's embrace of the legislation will ensure its passage this year.|
The legislation was scaled back dramatically from previous years, when it had wide support but got bogged down in larger energy bills with controversial provisions. Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said the tax credits for building and buying natural gas vehicles and for installing pumps would now last only five years, down from 17 years.
Tax credits are scored as a cost to the U.S. Treasury that increases the deficit. And sentiment in Washington is running decidedly against increasing the deficit or granting more preferential treatment through the tax code.
Sullivan said the bill's cost hasn't been determined, and he stressed that the bill's sponsors weren't trying to pick winners and losers in the alternative fuel market. He also said the bill had no mandates; previous versions would have required a certain percentage of government vehicles to run on natural gas.
Sullivan and Boren and lawmakers from Connecticut and Texas announced the bill's introduction on a conference call with reporters that also featured energy investor T. Boone Pickens, who has been pushing the Natural Gas Act for years.
Pickens said the bill was a first step toward weaning the U.S. off imported oil and that it would have an impact on demand within the five-year window.
“I also believe this is a global, game-changing bill,” said Boren, D-Muskogee. He said the bill is being co-sponsored by progressives, conservatives and moderates and has “the best chance of passage in this Congress.”
In an energy policy speech last week, Obama called the potential for natural gas “enormous” and said it was a “big deal” that Pickens and so many lawmakers were backing legislation offering incentives for natural gas vehicles.
Though Pickens has been pushing for credits to increase the use of heavy vehicles, the bill would offer credits for purchasing all new natural gas vehicles — and certain dual-fuel and bi-fuel natural gas vehicles — on a sliding scale based on weight; the credits would range from $7,500 to $64,000.
“With gas prices approaching $4 to $5 per gallon, there is no time like the present to incorporate more natural gas vehicles into our transportation portfolio,” Sullivan said.