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Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, today I join with Senator Inhofe to introduce a bill to incentivize the production and use of alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles, NGVs, and plug-in-electric hybrids. Encouraging the production of alternative fuel vehicles will help to diversify our fuel mix, while reducing our reliance on imported oil and also reducing carbon emissions. In the U.S. alone, NGVs offset the use of nearly 360 million gallons of gasoline in 2011. We hope our bill will help increase that number.
The moment is right to capitalize on the abundance of domestically sourced natural gas. Already, American manufacturers have benefited from the availability of domestically produced natural gas, reducing the cost of US-based production and contributing to the return of manufacturing to the United States. If we can expand the use of natural gas to fuel our vehicles, then American consumers can also benefit from this cleaner and cheaper domestic fuel.
Michigan has become a leading innovator in advanced alternative fuel vehicles and is revolutionizing our transportation sector. As automakers in Michigan and elsewhere manufacture NGVs they face the dilemma often encountered when introducing an alternative fueled vehicle: what will come first, the NGV infrastructure or the vehicle itself? This is the classic chicken and egg question. Ethanol, Diesel and electric vehicles all faced this challenge when first introduced. Our bill will allow Michigan to continue to innovate and harness the power and benefits that domestically sourced alternative fuels have to offer this country.
The benefits of expanding the number of natural gas and alternative fuel vehicles on our roads are numerous. Up to 90 percent of the natural gas used in the United States comes from the United States. We need to tap into this domestic resource for our transportation needs and take an aggressive approach to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Consumers should also have more choice and flexibility when it comes to fueling their vehicles. This bill allows for that. At the moment natural gas is about half the price of gasoline. Consumers should be able to benefit from these reduced prices. Furthermore, vehicles running on natural gas have 20-30 percent less CO
2 tailpipe emissions than gasoline fueled vehicles. Because natural gas burns cleaner, it increases the life of the car. It has no lead or benzene or other chemicals that break down auto parts or dilute lubricants.
These are all desirable reasons to encourage more NGV production. The use of natural gas vehicles is expanding among private fleets used by airports and transit agencies where refueling infrastructure is available. However, the chicken and egg dilemma is slowing the adoption of both dedicated and bi-fuel natural gas vehicles among light-duty passenger vehicles.
Our legislation would incentivize both production and consumer demand for alternative fuel vehicles such as natural gas vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids by expanding regulatory incentives. It would also provide consumers with an added incentive to drive natural gas vehicles by giving them access to high occupancy vehicle, HOV, lanes. Giving consumers an additional benefit such as HOV access could help increase demand for these vehicles and the fueling stations that are necessary to support them.
The President outlined in his State of the Union his goal to achieve energy independence through the use of alternative fuels. He specifically mentioned natural gas as the bridge fuel that can grow our economy, create jobs for the middle class, and reduce carbon pollution. I am pleased to introduce legislation today that takes a step toward meeting that goal.
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