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California OKs $16M to Promote Clean Transportation Fuels

The California Energy Commission (CEC) announced Tuesday approval of $16 million to fund a variety of projects demonstrating the state's continuing commitment to cleaner transportation fuel choices and added jobs in that emerging sector. State funds will leverage $96 million in private-sector matching money.

Under the CEC's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Transportation program created by state law (AB 118), the projects are expected to reduce petroleum consumption, provide jobs, examine new technologies and lower the cost of alternative-fuel vehicles, a CEC spokesperson said.

There are four major groupings in which the CEC grant money is focused -- the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for a hybrid truck/bus program; lithium battery production; converting algae to transportation oil use and a vehicle buy-down program centered on natural gas vehicles (NGV).

The CEC sent $4 million to CARB funding of hybrid trucks and bus voucher incentive projects; $5.8 million to Quallion LLC to develop a pilot automated manufacturing process for lithium ion modules, the building blocks for many batteries; $1.47 million to Solazyme to develop and test the feasibility of a pilot production plant for converting algae feedstock into renewable oil for vehicle use; and $4.75 million in vehicle buy-down incentives to lower the high upfront costs of specified natural gas and propane-powered vehicles.

The latter covers both individual buyers and fleet operators, and only for new natural gas and propane vehicles. The monies were allocated among nine car/truck dealers with 285 NGVs and 57 propane vehicles involved in the programs. Kenworth Truck Co. and Daimler Trucks North America each received $1.28 million grants for each to buy-down 40 heavy duty natural gas-fueled vehicles.

In 2007 AB 118 created the CEC's alternative/renewable transportation fuel program. It had amended an earlier bill (AB 109) to give the commission broader powers to fund transportation fuel projects in support of the state's climate change policies.

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