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NEW YORK (RealMoney) -- It's not my wish is my command, but it was terrific on Tuesday to see the introduction of the New Alternative Transportation to Give American Solutions, NATGAS Act, introduced in the Senate.
The aim is to give incentives to the trucking businesses to switch to cleaner engines that use cheaper fuel, but are more costly than regular engines to procure. If this bill passes it would make little sense NOT to buy nat gas engines because of the historic low price of nat gas vs. diesel. We have so much nat gas in this country that it is no longer an issue of availability. Diesel will almost always, from now on, be in short supply because of refinery issues and ridiculously strong Chinese demand.
But will the bill pass? The rallies in Westport Innovations (WPRT) and Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE), the nat gas engine maker and the nat gas filling station company that are the two biggest beneficiaries, say yes. But frankly, I have seen it all before. In this environment I don't see much hope for this bill.First, the Republicans have gone anti-subsidy crazy. They cringe if they even hear the word "subsidy" as I saw at last week's Republican debate. Second, nat gas -- for all of its advantages including abundance, cleaner skies and independence -- is a fossil fuel. So, President Obama is against it. Period. End of story. He's not trying to get us off gasoline. He's trying to get us on batteries. No matter that trucks, which use a huge amount of our imported oil, can't run on batteries. The president wants to send an anti-fossil-fuel message. You don't take up this bill if you are the president, even if it creates jobs, makes the skies cleaner and gets us more energy independent. It is too mixed message in a White House where the medium is the message. Anyway, the petrochemical industry will kill it by teaming up with the coal industry to lobby against it. Coal doesn't want nat gas to win anywhere and the chemical industry wants low nat gas prices. Neither interest could care less about the benefits of this bill and both interests have a lot of firepower to stop this.
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