Today we have an opportunity to learn about the current level of investment in, and barriers to, the expanded usage of natural gas as a fuel for transportation.
"The abundant natural gas resource that has become available in the United States with the advent of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has reshaped the energy landscape, and led many to consider new ways to use this important resource. As I said before, this hearing is to examine the role that this expanded natural gas resource might play in meeting our transportation needs, and to assess its potential in that regard.
"This is not a hearing to support any specific piece of legislation, but as always we are interested in hearing from experts about possible policy actions the federal government could take, or should take, to further our domestic energy goals.
"The transportation sector is vast and complex, with a range of different vehicle types and transportation categories, including heavy-duty trucks for long-haul transport, fleet vehicles, consumer cars and trucks, and non-road vehicles for marine and rail transport. Each of these vehicle types has different technological and infrastructure requirements to be able to use natural gas for fuel, and those differences strongly affect the relative viability of natural gas in each category.
"The need for both natural gas vehicle development and infrastructure build-out presents a "chicken-and-egg' problem. Vehicle manufacturers have historically been reluctant to develop and sell natural gas vehicles if the fueling infrastructure is not in place, and infrastructure developers have been wary of building fueling stations without demonstrated demand from consumers with natural gas vehicles.
"In some sectors of transportation like long-haul trucking and fleet vehicles, there already have been some excellent examples of co-development of vehicles and infrastructure.
"In the light-duty or consumer vehicle sector, the technology-infrastructure "chicken-and-egg' problem seems to be more difficult to overcome and natural gas consumer vehicles have not yet penetrated the domestic market to any significant degree. I know we're going to hear some testimony today from Chrysler LLC and I look forward to hearing why they have recently entered the natural gas/gasoline bi-fuel consumer market with their Ram truck.
"There are also federal and state government programs that are trying to address both sides of the technology-infrastructure problem.
"The Department of Energy is funding projects through ARPA-E on compressed natural gas storage tanks that would require lower pressure, making the tanks lighter, less space consuming and less costly.
"And finally, I would like to mention a state-driven initiative led by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to promote the use of natural gas in the transportation sector in their states.
"Some of the obvious questions we hope to get answers to today include:
The role that natural gas is already playing in our transportation sector;
What opportunities exist for further use of natural gas in transportation;
What market forces are driving change in this sector;
How natural gas compares to other alternative fuels in terms of its potential to promote energy security and its environmental benefits; and
If there are policies the federal government should be pursuing to promote expanded use of natural gas in transportation we might have.
"Now let me turn to Senator Murkowski for any opening comments she would like to make."