State legislation is likely next year in Florida to help boost the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV), according to a state House representative who is a leader on energy issues. The comments by state Rep. Lake Ray (R-Jacksonville) came as a Florida NGV organization was formed and an economic impact study released.

Ray said the newly formed Florida NGV Coalition was backing an alternative fuel bill that would include natural gas.

"It is vital to Florida's economic future that we have a conversation about transportation, freight mobility and logistics in the next legislative session," Ray said. "I believe that NGVs will be an important component of that discussion."

Led by heavy-duty vehicle fleet operators -- waste haulers, transit companies and food distributors -- the Florida NGV group was sparked by a national push to expand the use of compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas as a transportation fuel. The group, which includes local fleet operators and gas utilities among its 15 initial members, is advocating that state lawmakers provide incentives for switching to natural gas as a transportation fuel, as has been done in several other states (see Daily GPI, March 11, 2011).

An economic impact report released by the group indicates that incentives for natural gas-powered transportation would help create more than 10,000 new jobs, $300 million in new wages and $1 billion in economic output during the next two decades. Study results are available under "Public Policy" on the coalition's website (www.fuelforjobs.com).

Coalition Chair Eric Criss called the study's projections "conservative calculations," noting that an NGV incentive program could create hundreds of million of dollars in economic stimulus to the state.

The established gas industry trade group, the Florida Natural Gas Association (FNGA), is backing the coalition effort on transportation. FNGA Executive Director David Rogers said moving to more use of NGVs was "a proven way to save public and private sector transportation funds while creating new jobs."

Criss said fleet operators are listening to the NGV sector these days because the alternative fueling technology "has reached a tipping point -- the technology is already in use across the nation and around the world. Moreover, businesses are desperate to cut their fuel costs," with gasoline fuel costs up in July by the largest margin in more than 12 years.

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