Supercharge the economy with domestic energy

The NAT GAS Act (H.R.1380 and S.1863) would accelerate the use of domestic natural gas as a transportation fuel by providing financial incentives to fleets and individuals to switch their vehicles to natural gas and to install fueling stations to service them.

Despite increased U.S. production of petroleum, America is still spending $1 billion per day on imported oil. Besides the national security and balance of trade problems this causes, shipping that much of our wealth overseas is also shipping our jobs overseas. What would be the impact on American jobs if, instead, that money were spent and invested here at home? A rapidly growingnatural gas vehicle industry could help do that.

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As the natural gas vehicle industry grows, so do careers like vehicle manufacturers, designers, engineers, tool-and-dye makers, mechanics and after-market entities-resulting in a domino effect of job creation.

Estimates have shown that just switching America's heavy-duty truck fleet from diesel to natural gas could result in the creation of more than 400,000 direct and indirect new jobs over the next five years-not to mention the invaluable benefits to our environment and national security.

This is already happening in target markets. In 2011, almost 40 percent of the new trash trucks and about a quarter of all new transit buses were powered by natural gas.

A number of state governments have taken action to promote the switch to natural gas vehicles as well. Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia all have legislatively enacted programs to help reduce the cost of buying these vehicles and putting in natural gas fueling stations.

This month, the Arkansas Energy Office announced grants totaling $470,000 to be used toward the development of natural gas fueling stations in the state. In November, the governors of Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Pennsylvania signed a joint memorandum to convert some of their states' transportation fleets to natural gas. Not surprisingly, the switch to natural gas vehicles is happening faster in these states.

But our dependence on foreign petroleum is a national problem, and the federal government must play a lead role in addressing it. Passing the NAT GAS Act should be part of that national effort. It's the right legislation for the right moment.

So as 2012 moves ahead and presidential hopefuls continue to debate the future of this country, perhaps we should look to a direction that we can all agree on: moving America toward greater job creation, national security, environmental responsibility, and economic development by way of leveraging affordable, abundant, and American natural gas.

Richard Kolodziej is president of NGVAmerica, a national trade association for natural gas vehicles, based in Washington, D.C.