Matheson touts bill to promote natural gas vehicles

Apr 21, 2011
In The News
BY PAUL BEEBE

A bipartisan bill in Congress to jump-start the production and use of natural gas-powered vehicles is the best way for America to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse emissions, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson said Thursday.

"This is a winner for our country if we move this way," said Matheson, a Democrat and co-sponsor of a bill called the Nat Gas Act, introduced two weeks ago by Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla.

The bill would provide a five-year extension of the tax credit on natural gas fuel, new credits for the purchase and production of natural gas vehicles, and a credit for building natural gas refueling stations, Matheson said during a news conference at a Flying J natural gas fueling station in Salt Lake City.
The bill has broad bipartisan support in Congress. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is another co-sponsor. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, co-sponsors the Senate version.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner also have expressed support for the legislation.

"In an era where it’s easy to get worried about $4 gas and all the bad news that’s out there, here is some good news," Matheson said.

"The good news is natural gas is a plentiful domestic resource that can make a difference for our country and it can make a difference really quickly," he said.

Natural gas convert Hazen Watson said the widespread use of the fuel to power cars and trucks is an idea whose time has come
"If you live in Salt Lake City, there’s no reason not to (have a natural gas-powered truck or car), in my view," said Watson, whose Chevrolet Cavalier passenger car and Ford Windstar minivan are "bifuel" vehicles that can burn compressed natural gas and traditional gasoline.

There are 32 natural gas stations in Utah — more per capita than any other state, according to the Utah Clean Cities Coalition. More than half are along the Wasatch Front.

On Thursday, the price for 5.66 pounds of compressed natural gas — which would be the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline — was $1.30 at the Flying J station. "That is one-third of what you pay for normal gas," said Watson. He figures he saves $700 to $800 a year per vehicle.
Matheson said U.S. natural gas reserves are enough to last at least 118 years.

"By diversifying our vehicle fleets and using natural gas as a transportation fuel, we can significantly reduce our demand for foreign oil, and do so immediately," he said.

If the bill becomes law, it would create jobs and help clean the air because natural gas produces roughly 95 percent fewer pollutants than gasoline or diesel fuel when burned, he said.