WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Thursday announced legislation he intends to introduce that would authorize the designation of certain interstate highways as “clean vehicle corridors” to help jump-start construction of alternative fuel refueling stations and boost the use of alternative fuel vehicles.
Casey’s bill, the Clean Vehicle Corridors Act, would direct the Department of Transportation to establish five clean vehicle corridors along interstate highways across the country in the first year. These clean vehicle areas would contain the infrastructure necessary to refuel clean vehicles and would also modify weight restrictions on heavier clean vehicle trucks.
The corridors, Casey said, would encourage promotion of natural gas, plug-in electric, advanced bio-fuels, hydrogen and/or other clean fuels and give private industry specific geographic areas to focus investment to develop clean vehicle refueling stations.
“The intent is to make publicly accessible refueling stations available to all users at distances within easy range between major metropolitan areas with cleaner domestic fuels, whether it’s compressed natural gas, (liquefied natural gas), propane, electric, bio-fuel, hydrogen and others,” Casey said.
Where to refuel
Casey acknowledged that the problem with increasing alternative fuel vehicle use is akin to the “chicken-and-the-egg” conundrum: Which comes first, the vehicles or the refueling stations? Consumers won’t buy alternative fuel vehicles unless there are enough refueling stations in place, but private industry won’t build refueling stations unless there are enough alternative fuel vehicles on the road to earn them a profit.
Casey said designating certain highways as clean vehicle corridors, coupled with other legislation he is sponsoring, will help ensure the refueling stations are built and that more companies and agencies invest in alternative fuel vehicle fleets. In turn, so so can the public.
Casey said that because it’s so expensive to convert existing vehicles to run on alternative fuels or to buy new alternative fuel vehicles, he also introduced legislation to extend tax credits to provide rebates to encourage the use of alternative fuels such as compressed or liquefied natural gas.
Alternative fuel incentives
Casey said there were more than 315,000 on-road vehicles using alternative fuels in the United States in 2010, and he hopes the legislation will promote infrastructure development that will enable that number to someday reach into the millions.
“The folks who will invest in this infrastructure … they want to make money. And I think they know the market will be there just as the market was there for natural gas itself. I’m not too concerned about that, I think it will happen. But if there are other steps we have to take that we haven’t advocated for, I’m certainly willing to listen and learn,” he said.
In addition to authorizing the corridor designation, the bill would allow states to modify HOV (high occupancy vehicle) and HOT (high occupancy toll) lane restrictions to accommodate vehicles using cleaner alternative fuel and allow for the creation of designated parking spaces for vehicles using alternative fuels.