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Natural Gas Bill Could Be Stock Bonanza

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

By Nathan Slaughter

NEW YORK ( StreetAuthority) --Amid all the gridlock in Washington, a little-known bill that could create jobs and be a crucial key to our energy future is showing signs that it could get passed any day now.

Even better, it could lead to yet another green light for investors in a certain group of stocks.

It's called the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act, or Nat Gas Act.

On Sept. 21, following a general conversation about energy tax incentives, two separate subcommittees within the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee opened the floor to debate, and several members stepped forward to discuss the pros and cons.

A little-known bill could be a bonanza for commercial natural gas backers.

It has been a while since the first attempt to speed up the development of natural-gas-based transportation stalled out in Congress. But this second iteration, again championed by billionaire industrialist T. Boone Pickens, seems to have more traction.

The bill (H.R. 1380) has 186 cosponsors and enjoys broad bipartisan support. It's still a long road to the president's desk, and the legislation could get derailed at any point along the way. But there's vigorous discussion taking place right now -- and for proponents, that's at least a start.

So how could passage of this bill benefit investors? The Nat-Gas Act provides heavy financial incentives to encourage the adoption of vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and other gas-derived fuels.

Among other perks, the bill specifically calls for infrastructure credits to help defray the expense of installing fueling stations, along with a credit to reimburse up to $7,500 for passenger trucks and $64,000 for commercial trucks that run on natural gas fuels.

In an era where high gas prices are acting as a brake on the economy, the switch to cheaper CNG (which can save $2 per gallon at the pump compared with diesel) is a no-brainer in the eyes of some -- which is why fleet owners such as Wal-Mart (WMT) and UPS (UPS) are slowly making the transition.

If even half of the heavy-duty trucks on the road make the switch, the United States could cut its appetite for foreign oil imports by 1.2 million barrels a day. At current prices, that's $100 million staying here in the U.S. each day.

Stock quotes in this article: WMT, UPS, CHK, CLNE, RRC 

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