The California Energy Commission (CEC) has approved $100 million for its third annual alternative transportation investment plan, including nearly half of the budgeted funds going toward natural gas and biofuel transportation programs. The funding follows $259 million spent since the 2008-09 fiscal year under the same CEC-administered program.

The five-member CEC said it is striving through the program to “change the types of vehicles Californians drive and the fuels they use.” The CEC’s allocation prioritizes $100 million of state funds raised from various sources to leverage other transportation funding from the federal government, research institutions, private sector investors, auto manufacturers and other stakeholders.

Funding from 2008 to mid-year 2011 drew more than $140 million in federal stimulus funding and $113 million from the private sector, a CEC spokesperson said. A state law (AB 118) four years ago authorized the CEC to provide up to $100 million annually during a seven-year period to encourage new transportation fuels and technologies.

CEC Vice Chairman James Boyd said the program has been a job creator, along with helping the state’s push against climate change (AB 32) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He called it “an essential element” in the state’s climate and energy policies.

Under the latest allocation:

Funds for the programs come from a variety of state sources, including annual vehicle registration fees, vessel registrations, identification license plates and smog abatement fees. The CEC allocated $176 million collectively for the first two fiscal years, and $83 million this past (2010-11) fiscal year.

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