The drive to put natural gas on the road has influential congressional supporters, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, said last Wednesday, commenting on testimony by the head of a natural gas vehicle coalition before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

There is broad backing among Senate leaders for the "New Alternative to Give Americans Solutions" (NAT GAS) Act (S. 1408), and for another bill that would streamline the aftermarket vehicle conversion process, said Inhofe, ranking committee member.

With the right incentives natural gas vehicles could take over a large part of the heavy-duty diesel-fueled vehicle market, Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica told the committee, which heard testimony on ways to improve energy security and the environment. Natural gas-fueled vehicles emit 22% less greenhouse gases (GHG) than diesel-fueled vehicles and 29% less than gasoline-fueled vehicles.

The U.S. could expand the use of compressed natural gas (CNG) for transportation from about a 40 Bcf market last year to 1.25 Tcf annually in the next 10-15 years, Kolodziej said, replacing 10 billion gallons of diesel fuel.

Kolodziej will be speaking at GasMart 2010, coming up May 10-12 in Chicago. Prominent speakers at GasMart include Herb Vogel, new head of BP Energy North America Gas and Power; Will Hussey, senior vice president, origination at ConocoPhillips; and Porter Bennett, president of Bentek Energy. The Process Gas Consumers, one of the event's sponsors, will be contributing to the program and holding its own meeting for end-users in conjunction with GasMart. Check out the GasMart 2010 program and attendees at gasmart.com.

Pressed by a committee member as to whether natural gas could back out all imported fuel, Kolodziej said the goal should be that using all resources and strategies for reducing oil products in transportation, the U.S. succeed to the point where the nation's commercial infrastructure wouldn't be affected by a foreign oil embargo. It was estimated that of the 20 million b/d current U.S.oil consumption, 11 million b/d is imported, with some coming from Canada and Mexico and 6-7 b/d of the total coming from the Middle East and Venezuela.

The committee heard witnesses detail extensive programs to "change the face of the U.S. transportation infrastructure" to increase energy security and cut pollution and GHG. The Department of Transportation has programs under way to increase and improve high-speed rail systems for intercity travel, increase in-city transit options, eliminate highway bottlenecks, integrate regional housing land use programs to enhance transportation, increase development of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly avenues, and overhaul the air transportation system to reduce aviation fuel use.

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