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USA: CNG deserves same incentives as electric cars

I don’t often agree with Gov. Mary Fallin, but she’s on the right track in her pursuit to establish fairness in federal rules concerning alternative fuels vehicles.

Oklahoma, of course, has an abundance of natural gas and any kind of help for that industry would be a boon to the state, as well as the country. The governor is promoting the state and that is what she was expected to do. So, good for her.

According to an article in last week’s Tulsa World, Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are asking the Obama administration to adopt standards for alternative energy vehicles that would be “technology neutral.”

A gap

Fallin and Hickenlooper, as well as many others, believe that there is a gap that favors electric vehicles. As 22 states, including Oklahoma, move to convert state fleets to compressed natural gas, they find an unfair advantage toward electric vehicles.

CNG burns cleaner and is, at least for now, cheaper than gasoline. Experts believe that CNG causes less wear on a vehicle’s engine, meaning another cost savings for repair and maintenance.

Use of CNG in fleets has long been a cause of T. Boone Pickens. His Pickens Plan was instrumental in the NAT GAS Act being introduced into Congress and supported by Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. First District Rep. John Sullivan has long been its champion in the House.

Unfortunately, the NAT GAS Act – officially the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act – has found little traction in Congress.

Back in Oklahoma, Fallin is looking to convert the state’s fleet to CNG and her argument for equality is easily illustrated by the federal government’s incentives for domestic vehicles.

Mike Ming, Oklahoma energy secretary, told the Tulsa World that, “Basically, you get more tax credits for producing those types of vehicles (electric), and natural gas won’t get those credits.”

Money back

The Internal Revenue Service allows a tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500 for an electric vehicle purchased after Dec. 31, 2009. The amount of the credit depends on the battery capacity.

The IRS also provides a tax credit for plug-in electric drive conversion kits. That credit is equal to 10 percent of the cost of converting a vehicle placed in service after Feb. 17, 2009. It does not apply to conversions made after Dec. 31, 2011.

Here, at least as I see it, is the catch when it comes to buying an electric vehicle. For instance, a Chevy Volt (one of the more popular completely electric cars available) sells (at Tulsa prices) from $39,445 to $44,445.

On the higher end is the Tesla. Its roadster sells for around $100,000.

So, buy any one of those cars and you could get as much as a $7,500 tax credit.

The catch: How many folks can afford to buy a $40,000 car, especially in this economy? That’s up there in Lexus range. Most people, at least in Oklahoma, pay a lot less than that for a new car.



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