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Hatch championing alternative car fuels

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WASHINGTON — As if looking into a crystal ball, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says he foresees a day in the not-distant future when most cars may not use gasoline but will be powered by electricity, ethanol or hydrogen cells (which emit only water vapor).

"And considering the environmental and security costs associated with our petroleum-based transportation system, that day cannot come too soon," Hatch said Wednesday.

He was essentially preaching to the choir while addressing the Advanced Transportation Technology Forum on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Hatch has been fighting for years for tax breaks to provide incentives for greater development of alternative-fuel vehicles.

Hatch told the group that success finally seems near because the Senate Finance Committee included those provisions in its Energy Tax Incentives Act, "which I expect will be added to the (overall) energy bill on the floor of the Senate," which the Senate is debating.

Hatch has proposed giving tax credits of thousands of dollars to those who buy alternative-fuel vehicles. He also proposes credits of 50 cents per gasoline-gallon equivalent for the purchase of alternative fuels and other credits to encourage creation of refueling stations for alternative fuels.

"It offers powerful market incentives to promote the advances in technology," he said.

He adds it may lead to a future when people have a tough time remembering cars that used pollution-causing gasoline, much like many youths in today's computer generation have a tough time remembering typewriters.

"Last summer, my office actually had an intern who had never seen a typewriter," Hatch said.

"It has been a wonder to witness the fulfillment of the information age. But it is equally fascinating to see the beginnings of the coming transportation revolution," he said.

He noted he may have seen it start recently when he drove a hydrogen fuel cell car to the Capitol for a roll-call vote. "I can see the day when alternative vehicle fuels, fuel cells and other advanced car technologies will be common," he said.

E-mail: lee@desnews.com