Right now, you can buy exactly one natural gas car from a mainstream automaker--the Honda Civic GX. There are only 142,000 natural gas vehicles on American roads (out of 250 million). But that could soon change if a new bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and enthusiastically backed by energy investor T. Boone Pickens is passed.
Here's Pickens explaining his plan, which includes natural gas vehicles as a bridge to other renewable fuels: The legislation would double tax incentives for natural gas vehicles (NGVs), to as much as $12,500 for passenger cars and $64,000 for heavy trucks. The credits can be applied to the higher sales price for NGVs over their conventionally powered cousins.
And there's more: additional tax incentives for purchasing natural gas itself, and subsidies of up to $100,000 for builders of natural gas refueling stations. If they build a manufacturing facility for NGVs before January 1, 2015, businesses could claim 100 percent of the construction costs.
Pickens' own plan focuses on starting with commercial vehicles: He'd like to see 1.3 million NGV trucks by 2014, and he cites reducing our dependence on foreign oil as an incentive.
The conditions could be favorable for an NGV surge. One of the reasons Pickens was forced to abandon his plans for the world's largest wind farm this week was lower natural gas prices. As the New York Times reported, wind and natural gas are competitors in the market.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a co-sponsor of the Reid legislation, said that wild swings in oil prices helped wreck the economy, and making it "easier and cheaper" to own an NGV "can help families save money on energy, create new manufacturing jobs and clean our air." Pickens predicted that the legislation would pass soon after Congress' August recess.