Plan uses state resources to power state vehicles

06 06, 2012 by Shreveport Times

Among the stack of bills awaiting Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature is one that calls on the state to purchase vehicles powered by Louisiana-produced natural gas and propane.

The House and Senate endorsed HB1213 by Rep. Stephen Ortego, D-Carencro, and sent it to the governor to decide whether it becomes state law.

"It makes sense to promote the use of our own resources," Ortego said. "Louisiana is the No. 1 producer of natural gas and the No. 2 producer of propane in the United States.

"The most important thing to me is that we could lead the nation in energy independence," he said. "It's clean burning, better for the environment and promotes our own energy industry."

Currently, compressed natural gas is selling at $1.70 for an equivalent of one gallon of gasoline and propane is selling at $2.40 per equivalent gallon.

The bill says the commissioner of administration can waive the requirements if a vehicle would not be used enough to make it economical to purchase a bifuel vehicle. The bill says the proposed law could be bypassed if it is determined a vehicle would not break even in five years.

The beauty of a bifuel vehicle, Ortego said, is it has separate tanks and can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline. At current fuel prices, a vehicle could make up the difference in sales price in less than four years if it's driven 20,000 miles a year.

Also, the bill says a waiver can be granted to a state agency if it is located 25 miles of more from one of the 12 CNG or propane filling stations operating in the state.

Ortego said that if there are more vehicles on the roads that can use CNG, filling stations would be more willing to install storage tanks and pumps.

The cities of Lafayette and Shreveport are switching their bus fleets to CNG and the shuttles at Louisiana Armstrong Airport in New Orleans use propane, he said.

Louisiana has a tax break for service stations to install the necessary equipment and for drivers to convert vehicles.

The state offers an income tax credit of 50 percent of the cost of converting a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel, 50 percent of the incremental cost of purchasing an original equipment manufacturer alternative fuel vehicle and 50 percent of the cost of constructing an alternative fueling station.
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