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The State of the Union address affirmed President Obama's keen interest in building a stronger domestic natural gas industry to support the transportation sector, and a visit to Nevada on Jan. 26 put an exclamation point on that position.

The president delivered remarks while on site at a UPS facility in Las Vegas that hosts more than three dozen Kenworth tractors powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) engines from Westport HD Systems. According to UPS, these natural gas vehicles (NGVs) have a range of 600 miles and perform exactly as diesel-powered trucks do.

"Last April, we issued a challenge to shipping companies like UPS," the president remarked. "We said, if you upgrade your fleets to run on less oil or no oil at all, we're going to help you succeed… Let's get more of these natural gas vehicles on the road."

Obama discussed two major issues that are currently stifling much of the NGV sector's potential: a lack of long-term federal policy and an inadequate natural gas refueling infrastructure.

"That's one of the biggest impediments," he said. "We know how to make these trucks, but if they don't have a place to pull in and fill up, they got problems."

UPS' deployment of additional NGVs in Las Vegas arrived in step with the construction of a nearby public natural gas refueling station built by Clean Energy Fuels Corp. The president said he envisions the creation of five "natural gas corridors" along major U.S. interstate highways to ensure that long-haul carriers can reliably refuel their NGVs.

For its part, Clean Energy Fuels has already taken steps in that direction, with "America's Natural Gas Highway." This initiative, the company explains, is aimed at developing 150 LNG stations at key interstate locations. Work is already underway on a number of these projects, with Clean Energy Fuels targeting the completion of 70 sites by the end of 2012.

In terms of federal policy, the president noted that he wants to create new tax incentives that will support the purchase of NGVs. Obama did not give details about how these incentives could take shape, but his comments suggest that he would stand behind legislation that helped achieve this goal. Such legislation - the NAT GAS Act - has been introduced in both the House (H.R.1380) and Senate (S.1863).
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