Indiana is among the top 10 states in the nation for public compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations. Yet many people are still unfamiliar with how alternative fuels can benefit them. In order to answer that question, it is important to consider how this initiative came about and what it took for our state to become a leader in this area.
In 2012, I assembled a coalition to discuss how we could better promote natural gas as a motor fuel in Indiana. Natural gas is an abundant, domestic resource. It is also cheaper than diesel and is cleaner than other fossil fuels. In fact, the current price of CNG at CNG Fuel Inc. in Greensburg is nearly 40 cents less per gallon than the average price of diesel in Indiana. Despite these benefits, Indiana only had three public natural gas fueling stations just three years ago.
At the time, the nation had been experiencing large fluctuations in gas prices due to conflicts overseas. This began to have an impact on families who were struggling just to afford the cost of driving to work every day.
Over the course of several meetings with Cummins, Vectren and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, among others, we determined that natural gas as a motor fuel was a viable option for Indiana. I took what we discussed during those meetings and drafted legislation which passed the Indiana General Assembly with overwhelming, bipartisan support. This law focused on making natural gas available to all consumers by encouraging large users of motor fuel to convert their diesel fleets.
Specifically, this law provided a $15,000 income tax credit for placing into service a natural gas powered class 8 vehicle – the heaviest duty truck classification. It also ensured that alternative fuel vehicles pay their fair share for the upkeep and maintenance of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure by applying the existing road use tax rates on diesel or gasoline to natural gas.
Since enacting this legislation, Indianapolis-based Monarch Beverage has converted more than half of their delivery fleet to compressed natural gas. What makes this so appealing to them and many other businesses is that they can lock in prices years in advance. For example, in 2013 Monarch Beverage locked in their price at $1.70 per gasoline gallon equivalent, minus a 50-cent-per-gallon federal tax credit. If you think about how often the price of gasoline changes, you can imagine how much this saves businesses – savings that can then be passed on to their consumers.
Since 2013, we have added 19 new natural gas stations with three more currently under construction. The more these stations continue to pop up across the state, and even locally, the greater the benefit will be for Hoosiers and businesses alike.
Recently, I had the opportunity to share Indiana’s success story at the Technology and Market Assessment Forum, hosted by the Energy Solutions Center. This forum brought together gas utility marketing, sales and customer support representatives from across North America. It was great to hear what other states are doing to advance natural gas as a fuel alternative while being able to share Indiana’s accomplishments as well.
As we approach another legislative session, I will continue to advocate for natural gas as a motor fuel and raise awareness about how it benefits our state. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition website at greaterindiana.com, or contact my office at 317-234-3827.