In making his case for congressional action on natural gas use in transportation, the CEO of a California-based gas transportation fueling company told a House subcommittee Thursday that the added cost for heavy-duty natural gas-powered trucks is coming down and the NAT GAS Act (HR 1380) to accelerate gas transportation fuel development will help further reduce those added costs.

Clean Energy Fuels Corp. CEO Andrew Littlefair touted the proposed stimulus for gas in transportation as a potential boost for the sagging economy with the prospect for creating up to 400,000 new jobs. Littlefair focused on the nation’s 8 million heavy duty-(Class 5 through 8) trucks operating in the United States, most running on diesel, in appearing before the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee.

With his Seal Beach, CA-based firm as a major supplier of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) along with refueling infrastructure, Littlefair attempted to make the case for gas use in transportation carrying what he called “wide ranging” benefits that are “vital to America’s national interest.” There are job creation, security and environmental benefits, he said.

Separately, on Monday Ford Motor Co. said another 35 of its CNG-powered Transit Connect Taxis were put in service in New England as Metro Taxi in West Haven, CT, added the vehicles to its fleet as part of an effort to lower its reliance on gasoline and reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions. Littlefair’s Clean Energy firm owns and operates the CNG fueling station in West Haven, one of 250 it operates nationwide.

In this case CNG is used in traditional gasoline internal combustion engines that are modified to operate on natural gas by Dallas-based BAF Technologies, a Clean Energy subsidiary. BAF has been certified by Ford to convert standard Transit Connect Taxis to run on CNG.

In Washington, DC, at the subcommittee meeting, Littlefair concentrated on medium- and heavy- duty trucks burning imported diesel fuel to emphasize the difference the NAT GAS law could make. “Unlike battery and hydrogen technologies which are works in progress, natural gas is a proven vehicle fuel,” he told the subcommittee, emphasizing that globally there are 13.2 million natural gas vehicles operating, but only about 110,00 in the United States.

The medium- and heavy-duty trucks suck up more than 35 billion gallons of fuel annually, most of which could be using cheaper, domestically produced natural gas, said Littlefair, arguing that they could be running on CNG and LNG.

For a typical $125,000 tractor or drayage truck, ones built to run on natural gas cost $35,000-40,000 more, but that can be driven down with the help of NAT GAS, Littlefair said. Three years ago the incremental cost for the natural gas capability added $60,000 to $100,000 to the trucks’ cost, he said.

“As [natural gas manufacturers] ramp up to meet the expected demand, the per-unit costs will drop to the point where a tax credit is no longer necessary,” Littlefair said. “The private sector is doing its part. Recently my company announced an investment by Chesapeake Energy to build 150 strategically located LNG truck stops” (see Daily GPI, Aug. 11).

Littlefair said the fueling infrastructure can be “greatly speeded up” through HR1380.

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