On Friday, December 18th, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (H.R. 2029). Division Q, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act (PATH Act), retroactively extends many tax credits.
There are several PATH Act provisions with implications for Clean Cities portfolio items:
• Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit. Section 182 extends the tax credit for alternative fuel infrastructure through December 31, 2016. Fueling equipment for natural gas, propane, liquefied hydrogen, electricity, E85, and biodiesel are eligible for a tax credit of 30%, up to $30,000. Residential fueling equipment may receive a tax credit up to $1,000.
• Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit. Section 192 extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for alternative fuels, including liquefied hydrogen, through December 31, 2016.
• Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Section 192 also extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for alternative fuel used to produce a mixture containing at least 0.1% gasoline, diesel, or kerosene through December 31, 2016. Alternative fuel blenders must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
• Qualified Two-wheeled Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit. Section 183 extends the two-wheeled plug-in electric drive motor vehicle tax credit through December 31, 2017. Qualified vehicles are eligible of a tax credit for 10% of the cost of the vehicle, up to $2,500.
• Fuel Cell Motor Vehicle Tax Credit. Section 193 extends the $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of qualified light-duty fuel cell vehicles through December 31, 2016.
• Biodiesel Income Tax Credit. Section 185 extends the biodiesel income tax credit through December 31, 2016. A taxpayer that delivers unblended biodiesel (B100) into the tank of a vehicle may be eligible for a $1.00 per gallon of biodiesel, agri-biodiesel, or renewable diesel tax credit.
• Biodiesel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Section 185 also extends the $0.50 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel, agri-biodiesel, or renewable diesel used to produce a mixture containing at least 0.1% gasoline, diesel, or kerosene through December 31, 2016. Alternative fuel blenders must be registered with the IRS.
• Second Generation Biofuel Production Property Depreciation Allowance. Section 189 extends the 50% special depreciation allowance for second generation biofuel production plants through January 1, 2017.
• Second Generation Producer Tax Credit. Section 184 extends the tax credit for second generation biofuel producers through December 31, 2016. Second generation biofuel producers registered with the IRS may be eligible for a $1.01 per gallon of biodiesel tax credit.
The changes outlined above are effective immediately. To view the full text of the PATH Act, visit https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr2029enr/pdf/BILLS-114hr2029enr.pdf. See the Alternative Fuels Data Center Federal Laws and Incentives page for descriptions of each incentive.
This week's Clean Cities success story takes us to Asheville, North Carolina, to the Biltmore, America's largest home. The Biltmore uses biodiesel produced from the 50 acres of canola on the estate and from the restaurant waste cooking oil processed on site. Propane is also part of the Biltmore's sustainability portfolio. With the assistance of the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, the Biltmore uses eight propane-powered shuttle buses to transport guests around the property.
Produced by Maryland Public Television's MotorWeek program, this episode (#3516) will air on PBS stations nationwide starting Dec. 26, 2015. For show times in your area, check the MotorWeek and Discovery Channel websites. MotorWeek is also available in high definition on Velocity by Discovery.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (N.C. DOT) is continuing to support efforts led by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center (NCCETC) at North Carolina State University to reduce transportation related emissions through a two-year $4,494,500 award for the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project. This marks the fourth phase of the CFAT initiative, which began in 2006.
The CFAT project focuses on improving air quality in the 24 North Carolina counties that are in non-attainment or maintenance status with regards to National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The project ccenters around three primary activities: education and outreach, emission reduction sub-awards, and recognition of exemplary efforts among fleets and organizations reducing their transportation-related emissions. The 2016-17 phase includes the following:
- Expansion of a public education campaign to increase awareness of cleaner transportation options such as walking, biking, transit and alternative fuels. The campaign includes statewide television, radio, and billboard advertising directing users to the consumer-oriented website FuelWhatMatters.org.
- Collaboration and information exchange at a regional and statewide level, including the N.C. Clean Transportation Coordinating Committee, the N.C. Smart Fleet initiative, and a track at the 2016 State Energy Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina that is dedicated to topics relevant to a wide range of transportation stakeholders.
- Development of a professional Smart Fleet management training program that will provide tools and information to increase fleet efficiency through the use of low carbon fuels, technologies, practices and policies.
- Distribution of $3 million for transportation technology-related emission reduction projects. These funds will be allocated through a minimum of two competitive call for project processes.
The beginning of this new CFAT phase coincides with the announcementof a request for proposal period for $1.5 million in funding available to governments, businesses, and/or non-profit applicants for transportation technology emission reduction projects. Eligible projects include biodiesel, E85 ethanol, electric, hybrid electric, natural gas, and propane vehicles and refueling/recharging equipment. Vehicle telematics, diesel retrofits, and idle reduction technologies are also eligible for CFAT grant funding.
Funding assistance is allocated in the form of a reimbursement, which can cover up to 80 percent of the project cost. In order to be eligible, a project must reduce transportation-related emissions within the 24 eligible counties with the exception of natural gas refueling equipment and electric vehicle recharging infrastructure which, in accordance with federal guidelines, can be located anywhere within the state. For education and outreach regarding alternative fuel and fuel conservation technologies and policies, the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center has partnered with Triangle J, Centralina, Upper Coastal Plain and Kerr-Tar Councils of Governments, and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council.
Guidelines and applications available by clicking on Incentives & Funding at: www.cleantransportation.org
- What words or images from this slide catch you attention?
- What headlines have you been reading or seen in the news this week or month related to crude oil prices?
- What do you think of when I say the words "falling oil prices?"
- What concerns you?
- What is the importance of the price of oil? Why should we care about falling oil prices?
- What implications does this have for the national Clean Cities program?
- What opportunities could exist?
- What does this mean for the next year? Or next 5 years?
- What kind of decisions do we need to make as a Clean Cities Coalition?
Items to Consider:
- OEM's and suppliers costs are down leading to cost to do new fuels/technology are more feasible
- Alternative fuels now available almost everywhere
- Maintenance protocols are improving for alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) leading to reduced costs
- Reliability of AFVs improving leading to proven performance (not an unknown)
- Communicating value to potential users we need to tap into knowledge gained by early adopters (i.e. learning curves, best practices)
- Local governments need to augment budget process and mechanisms to better favor innovation shifts to new technology (i.e. allowing departments to keep cost savings)
- Education and outreach around variety of petroleum reduction programs and technologies (i.e. anti-idling, telematics)
- Myth busting about various fuels, technolgy and vehicles: making sure dealers are better prepared/knowledgeable on AFVs, providing clarity on source of electricity for EVs (air quality impacts)
Diversification as a strategy
- Focus on pros of alternative technologies
- Focus on long-term thinking vs. short term (where will we be in 2020?)
- Different duty cycles will be met by variety of fuels and vehicles
Asheville Outlets announced the installation of a Tesla Motors Superchager station! This Tesla Supercharger station, located at 800 Brevard Road, has eight charging bays suitable for the Tesla Model S and X. They are capable of replenishing approximately 170 miles of range in 20 minutes and charging to full capacity in 40 minutes!
Eastern Carolina Council is working on a Plug-In Electric vehicle corridor plan. The aim is to help counties and municipalities along US-70 create a range anxiety-free route for folks traveling east. This will be done through enabling language in local codes, marketing of the corridor, and potentail charging site locations.
Plug-in NC is now accepting applications. Any organization in North Carolina is welcome to join if they have installed a charging station, purchased an electric fleet vehicle or are working to promote driving electric. By joining Plug-in NC, you will be featured on the website and social media, and have an opportunity to connect with other electric vehicle supporters across the state.
If you would like to learn more about Plug-in NC before joining, there is a recording of the informational webinar available on the website - www.pluginnc.com. If you would like to join the program, you can complete the new online application by clicking here.
Drivers of hybrid and electric vehicles are accustomed to a feature called “start-stop” that saves fuel by turning the vehicle off when you’re stopped (e.g., waiting in traffic) and restarting it when you’re ready to move. However, if you want a new, conventional automobile or light-duty truck, you might consider buying one that uses the same technology. You can now find it in a range of American automobiles, including Cadillac CT6s, Chevy Malibus, Ford Fusions, and Ford F-150 trucks.
Start-stop (also known as auto start, idle stop, auto start-stop, start/stop, or mild hybrid) technology senses when your foot is on the brake for a predetermined period of time and shuts off the engine. All your auxiliaries remain on while start-stop is engaged. When you release the brake, the engine seamlessly starts up again. The technology underlying start-stop includes a heavy-duty starter that can endure 300,000 cycles instead of 30,000 cycles found in most vehicles.
Europeans have long used this technology, as their fuel prices are as much as three times higher than ours. In addition, start-stop engineering is less complicated for manual-transmission vehicles, which are more common in Europe than here in the States. Finally, current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel-economy test procedures don’t account for much simulated idling, so start-stop–associated savings may not even show up on the label of the new car, although this may change in the near future.
I recently took a few test drives of both American- and German-made automobiles equipped with start-stop. Each of the vehicles had an indicator similar to the one below to show when the feature was in use.
Indicators of start-stop technology in a 2015 Chevrolet Malibu. The left photo shows the indicator when the vehicle is stationary but not idling; the right photo shows the indicator when the vehicle is stationary and idling. Used with permission of Intertek Testing Services NA.
At first, the silence and lack of vibration at traffic lights were quite noticeable, but it didn’t take long to adjust to the quiet. Then, in the instant that it took for me to move my foot from the brake to the accelerator, the engine came back to life. I was expecting this experience, but if I hadn’t known about it, I would have been quite disconcerted. Automobile manufacturers do allow the start-stop feature to be turned completely turned off.
So how much fuel can you save by having this technology in your car or light truck? To quote EPA, “Your mileage may vary,” and savings depend on traffic and driving style. Fuel savings probably range from about 3% to more than 10% for stop-and-go city traffic. However, your driving habits strongly influence your actual fuel economy.
The Propane Education & Research Council donated $10,000 to Boston Public Schools to recognize its effort to improve students' health, safety, and education. The school district adopted Boston's first propane autogas powered bus fleet, adding 86 Blue Bird Vision Propane buses. These alt fuel buses will save the district up to $1,000 per bus annually and significantly reduce its diesel consumption.
PERC partnered with former first daughter and teacher Jenna Bush Hager and AdoptAClassroom.org to present the middle school's teachers at Lilla G. Fredereick Middle School with the money for classroom supplies, books, and outdoor equipment. This is a part of PERC's new campaign to educate consumers about the benefits of transition away from diesel to clean, domestic propane autogas.
"It's clear when you talk to school administrators and transportation departments that they are saving more than just dollars and cents by going with propane buses," said Bush Hager. "The switch is improving their school as a whole and giving them the opportunity to invest in more teachers or school programs."
Donations like this from PERC are wise decisions by school districts to choose a more cost-effective domestic fuel option like autogas will help put money back where it belongs - in the classroom and U.S. economy.
Question of the Month: What is renewable natural gas (RNG) and can it be used to fuel vehicles?
RNG is pipeline-quality natural gas made by collecting and purifying biogas, the methane produced from decomposing organic matter. Biogas can be collected from sources such as landfills, livestock operations, wastewater treatement plants, food manufacturing and wholesalers, supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals. Once purified to remove contaminants and increase its heat content, the gas is called RNG and is a "drop-in" fuel that can be transported with conventional natural gas in pipelines, dispensed at the same fueling stations, stored in the same storage tanks, and used in natural gas vehicles without any engine modifications.
Despite its advantages, there are only 60 operational RNG production facilities in the United States. Many more us the biogas to generate electricity. This is due to federal and state programs, such as the federal Investment Tax Credit and state renewable portfolio standards, whic incentivize the use of biogas for power generation rather than for vehicle fuel.
The purification process fo rbiogas is called condition or upgrading, and it involves removing water, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and various contaminants and trace elements. From there, RNG can be compressed to make renewable compressed natural gas (R-CNG) or super-cooled to make renewable liquefied natural gas (R-LNG).
RNG is produced from feedstocks that come from a wide range of industrial sectors, many of which already collect and process biomass as part of their daily operations:
- Landfills: Landfill gas (LFG) is collected from decomposing waste in landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfills are the third larges source of human-related methan emissions in the United States. Landfills account for 70% of the operational RNG projects in the United States. One of the largest LFG-to-vehicle fuel projects is Waste Management's Altamont Landfill near Livermore, California. This project prudces up to 13,000 gallons of R-LNG each day to fuel 300 refuse trucks.
- Livestock Operations: Animal manure can be collected and taken to an anaerobic digester for RNG production. A few farms across the country have started to use biogas to produce RNG vehicle fuel, including Hilarides Dairy in California and Fair Oaks Dairy in Indiana.
- Wastewater Treatment Plants: Approximately 9% of th emore than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States use anaerobic digestion to produce biogas. The Janesville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Wisconsin is an example of a plant that uses biogas to produce RNG for use in vehicles.
- Other Biomass Sources: RNG can also be produced from lignocellulosic material, such as crop residues and dedicated energy crops, through thermochemical conversion, co-digestion, and dry fermentation. These technologies are being used in Europe, but have limited applications in the United States. RNG also can be produced from food waste, either alone or in conjunction with biosolids from livestock operations or wastewater treatment plants. CleanWorld Partners' Sacramento BioDigester and quasar's Central Ohio BioEnergy project convert food waste to RNG for vehicle fueling.
RNG qualifies as a cellulosic biofuel under the EPA's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. In fact, RNG accounted for more than 50 million renewable identification numbers (RINs) in 2014 - 98% of all cellulosic biofuel RINs. According to organizations that track biofuels market data, cellulosic biofuel RINs were valued at $0.70 - 0.85 per diesel gallon equivalent in 2014; this value is expected to increase in the future.
Like conventional natrual gas, RNG can be produced domestically and can displace the petroleum currently being imported for transportation use. However, RNG offers some additional benefits. RNG has practically a net zero carbon impact. On a lifecycle basis, RNG accounts for fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than most currently available motor fuels. RNG can reduce GHG emissions by 95% compared to conventional gasoline and diesel fuel. This is partially because capturing biogas from landfills and livestock operations can reduce GHG emissions by preventing methane releases that were occurring into the atmosphere. Additionally, RNG produced through anaerobic digestion eliminates odors and results in nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer as a by-product. Also, biogas feedstocks are plentiful, so RNG could make use of the 450 million pounds of municipal solid waste dumped in landfills, 160 billion pounds of food waste generated, or the 500 million tons of animal waste produced each year.
Like conventional natural gas, the main barriers to RNG are lack of vehicle availability and fueling infrastructure, though efforts are underway to address both of these obstacles. However, RNG production costs exceed those for conventional natural gas, especially for small-scale operations. Small-scale RNG prodcution can cost around $5.50 - $9 per million British thermal units compared to $4.50 for conventional natural gas. Additional financing and incentive opportunities, as well as state renewable portfolio standards that encourage the investment in biogas for vehicle fuel production, may spur additional production.