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Inhofe Introduces Drive America on Natural Gas Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today introduced the Drive America on Natural Gas Act to promote the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles.  Inhofe also introduced the American Affordable Fuels Act to relieve pain at the pump. 

“As Americans continue to suffer from high gas prices, we need to take advantage of our abundant domestic supply of natural gas for use as a transportation fuel,” Senator Inhofe said. “The Drive America on Natural Gas Act adds flexibility to the current Renewable Fuels Standard mandates by adding natural gas. It encourages the use of a proven alternative fuel and sends a market signal to manufacturers to consider compressed natural gas as a cost competitive alternative. Natural gas is domestic, plentiful, affordable, and clean. The promise of natural gas as a mainstream transportation fuel is achievable today -- not 15 or 20 years from now.

“Today, the largest hurdle facing the natural gas vehicle industry is the lack of refueling stations available to the public. By encouraging the production of bi-fuel natural gas vehicles, my bill overcomes this key difficulty. Coupled with a home refueling unit (the Phill), consumers will be comfortable purchasing bi-fuel natural gas vehicles knowing that their vehicle can also run on conventional gasoline for that occasional long distance trip from home. Installed in one’s garage, the Phill is connected to a home’s natural gas line. Once plugged into a CNG vehicle, the Phill slowly compresses natural gas into the car’s tank. Similar to the idea of plug-in hybrids, the Phill allows consumers to re-fuel at home. Unlike plug-in hybrids, this technology is not a few years away -- it is here today.

“As the nation’s number two producer in natural gas production, Oklahomans have a strong appreciation for the versatility of natural gas. In fact, Oklahoma alone annually produces nearly one-tenth of total U.S. natural gas production.

“Just last month I was pleased to visit Tom Sewall of Tulsa Natural Gas Technologies, Inc.  As a small business owner who installs NGV refueling stations, he is one of the most knowledgeable and vocal leaders in this growing industry.  In my hometown of Tulsa, OK, a person can refuel their CNG powered cars for just 90 cents per gallon.  Regular currently costs $3.95.  That’s a savings of more than $3 per gallon.

“The Drive America on Natural Gas Act will allow natural gas to compete on its own merits; it does not dictate that consumers, businesses, or states must use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The bill encourages auto manufacturers to produce bi-fuel vehicles, streamlines EPA’s emissions certifications, and establishes a natural gas vehicle research program. Americans can ultimately choose whether natural gas powered vehicles are right for their own individual and business needs.”

About the Drive America on Natural Gas Act:

Expands RFS Definitions: Expands the definition in the Renewable Fuels Standard to allow the use of CNG and LNG fuels to meet the mandates. By broadening the scope of the Renewable Fuels Standard to include natural gas, we encourage the use of a proven domestic, clean, and economical alternative fuel and also make the current RFS mandates achievable. Additionally, it sends a signal to the nation’s automakers and fuels industries that natural gas is a competitive option as a mainstream transportation fuel. 

Broadens Alternative Vehicle Tax Credit: Broadens the Alternative Vehicle Tax Credit to include bi-fuel vehicles.  Currently only “dedicated” vehicles or vehicles which solely run on natural gas qualify for this credit.  This narrow definition actually discourages the sale of bi-fuel vehicles – those which can run on both conventional fuels and natural gas fuels. 

Establishes a Natural Gas Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration program: Several years ago, the Department of Energy had a robust Natural Gas Vehicle Research Development and Demonstration program.  This bill once again establishes that program to research, improve, and develop the use of natural gas engines and vehicles.  The program will assist manufacturers in emissions certification, will develop and improve nationally recognized safety codes and standards, will examine and improve the reliability and efficiency of natural gas fueling station infrastructure, and will study the use of natural gas engines in hybrid vehicles. Additionally, it requires the Department of Energy and the EPA to coordinate with the private sector to carry out the program. 

Streamlines Emissions Certifications and Regulations: Directs the EPA to establish a state demonstration program to streamline the regulations and certifications currently required for the conversion of vehicles to natural gas.  Today’s regulatory burdens are daunting for those in the business of converting vehicles to run on CNG or LNG.  Currently, EPA imposes virtually the same certification requirements on NGV aftermarket conversion systems as they require on automakers.   

Get the Facts on Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel 

Related Links:  Inhofe: Natural gas production essential to Oklahoma and the country - Senator Inhofe, The Journal Record