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What has 18 wheels and employs 600,000 people?

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Ben Garvin/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(Read caption) A few of the more than three million 18-wheelers on the road today are shown parked at a truck stop off the Massachusetts I-90 Turnpike. The Senate's new climate bill could revolutionize the trucking industry.

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Yesterday, Senators Lieberman and Kerry introduced the American Power Act, also being referred to as the climate bill or the energy bill. The media is playing up the 'to drill or not to drill' angle but is missing the real story.

Buried in the proposed legislation is a provision that I feel could be nothing short of revolutionary for America, the natural gas trucking subsidy. There are 3 million 18 wheelers on the road right now, mostly running on diesel fuel. Converting that fleet to compressed or liquified natural gas would mobilize a brand new industry here in America.

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We have a 200 year natural gas supply here in the United States. Getting the heavy transportation industry on nat gas should be priority number one. Tens of thousands of jobs could be created as stations are built out, transmission and infrastructure projects flourish and more nat gas drilling is necessitated.

According to T Boone Pickens, who testified before Congress in April, the legislation could result in 236,000 clean natural gas trucks on the roads and add 600,000 new green jobs to the economy. Pickens is talking his book, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.

The good news is that this bill doubles the subsidy for buyers of nat gas trucks to $64,000. Combined with the $1 per gallon difference between diesel and nat gas fuel, this brings the payback on buying a cng or lng truck down to a one year time frame. We're talking Tipping Point with those economics, not to mention the positive impact on the environment as nat gas burns cleaner. Then you add in the anti-terror support aspect because every truck running on domestic gas is one less truck feeding the middle east. This is a win-win-win.

Senator Kerry has been quoted as saying that he'd be happy to see the bill voted on by June or July. The natural gas industry would be extremely happy, especially if this tax credit makes the final cut.

Guys, don't screw this could literally change the world.

Read my earlier work on the subject here: A Riddle and a Rant (TRB)

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