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Natural-gas car proposal could boost Greensburg Honda plant

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Hoping to spur alternative vehicles, lawmakers want to double the size of tax breaks on cars that run on natural gas.

That could be good news for Indiana, where Honda Motor Corp. produces the natural-gas-powered Civic GX at its Greensburg plant. Right now, Honda is the only automaker selling natural-gas-powered cars to U.S. consumers.

Senators joined Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens yesterday to propose legislation that would increase tax credits for natural gas that were created by a 2005 energy law. About 10 million vehicles globally run on natural gas, but only a small fraction of those are in the United States.

"Natural-gas-vehicle technology is here, and all that's needed is the policies to jump-start the industry to make it flourish," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who introduced the legislation with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also supports the plan.

Pickens has spent the past year pushing his "Pickens Plan," which includes more investment in wind and solar energy, rebuilding of the nation's electrical grid and replacing gasoline with natural gas in cars and trucks. He said the incentives would help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

The tax credits, which can be used to provide 80 percent of the added cost to buy a natural gas-fueled car instead of a typical vehicle, would increase to $12,500 for passenger cars and light trucks under legislation unveiled yesterday. The tax credits currently stand at $5,000 and are set to expire in 2010.

The bill includes more generous incentives for larger vehicles, typically used in government fleets. It also extends several natural gas tax credits for 10 years and encourages government fleets to add more alternative vehicles.

Honda began selling the natural-gas-powered Civic GX to consumers in 2005 after first offering the vehicle to fleets from 1997. The company said the vehicle costs about half as much to fuel as a similar gasoline-engine car.

“We welcome any decision from the U.S. government that benefits our customers,” Yasuko Matsuura, a spokeswoman for Tokyo-based Honda, told Bloomberg News, but she declined to say whether the company would boost output of the vehicle if the legislation becomes law.

Honda’s natural-gas-powered Civic GX sells at a list price of $25,190 while a similar gasoline-engine Civic lists at $17,055.

The GX costs less to operate than a gasoline-powered Civic, but it averages only about 220 miles per fueling and has only about half as much trunk space, Todd Mittleman, a Honda spokesman, told Bloomberg.

Honda plans to sell between “1,500 and 2,000” of the cars this year, Mittleman said.

Production of the car was moved to Honda’s Greensburg plant this year from East Liberty, Ohio. Greensburg is about 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis, in Decatur County.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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