NEW YORK (
) -- The NatGas Act's latest defeat should be announced some time on Tuesday. Expectations among Capitol Hill energy policy experts are that the attempt to attach the incentive for natural gas vehicles to the larger and "must pass" highway bill will fail as the Senate votes on amendments.
Christine Tezak, an energy policy analyst at Robert W. Baird, expressed the prevailing pessimism when asked at what time a vote on the NatGas Act should be in: "I haven't even checked. It's not worth worrying about. Even the proponents seem to have thrown in the towel."
If it does fail on Tuesday, it's likely that the NatGas Act won't have any legislative hope until at least next year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) a proponent of the NatGas Act -- though a proponent who has been quick to throw in the towel in the past -- is expected to open debate after 2 p.m. EDT on energy policy amendments.
|The NatGas Act drives towards its latest legislative stall on Tuesday.
In an analysis of the latest, likely, failed effort to find the votes on Capitol Hill for the NatGas Act, FBR Capital Markets analyst Benjamin Salisbury wrote, "The struggling effort to extend 'must-pass' highway bill funding (scheduled to expire March 31) may be the last opportunity before the November elections to pass energy tax policy like the Nat Gas Act or renewable energy incentives. After the highway bill, we detect little appetite and few opportunities for compromise in this presidential election year. "
A lame duck piece of legislation is always a wildcard at year-end. However, the energy policy analysts seemed to think this would be a long shot, even if it can't be ruled out. An extension of the wind energy production tax credit before year end -- which is scheduled to expire -- is seen by energy policy experts as the most likely alternative energy measure to receive a last minute reprieve.
The NatGas Act would provide roughly $3.4 billion in incentives for natural gas vehicles focused on the heavy-duty and fleet market by providing tax incentives for vehicles and fueling equipment funded through a tax on natural gas fuel. A change in the act's language this year included the tax pay-for to appease fiscal conservatives who will oppose the measure as wasteful government spending, or in the least, spending that places the government in the position of "picking winners and losers" in the market.