The United States Senate failed to pass the Natural Gas Act (Amendment # 1782 to the Transportation Bill, S. 1813) last week even though the Act received the majority vote. The Natural Gas Act had 51 votes for and 47 against, but because it is an amendment to a highway bill, 60 votes are required for it to pass.
The Natural Gas Act’s main resolve is to replace gasoline/diesel with compressed or liquefied natural gas. The Act would provide $3.5 billion to $5 billion in tax incentives and a 50% tax credit to convert vehicles from gasoline/diesel to natural gas. Furthermore, the Act has a provision to stimulate the growth of natural gas infrastructure (i.e. fueling stations), providing the industry with a $1 billion subsidy to help the transition. There are approximately 8 million heavy duty trucks (including 18-wheelers) in the United states. If they were all converted to run on natural gas, the crude oil imports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would be cut in half.
The Natural Gas Act will likely not be voted on again for another year or so. At the time this post was written, the cost of: crude oil is $106.14 per barrel, natural gas is $2.351 per million British thermal units (the equivalent of less than $2.00 per gallon of gasoline) and gasoline (refined crude oil) is over $4.00 per gallon in New York.
There are currently about 110,000 of natural gas vehicles in the United States, but only approximately 500 fueling stations. Many of these vehicles are fleets of buses and trucks for big business, including UPS, California Public Transportation, and Waste Management. These vehicles, for the most part, are fueled by private natural gas fueling stations.
The United States spent approximately $400 billion on crude oil imports in 2011.