N.J. Senate panel backs measures to promote alternative-fuel cars

    The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee has adopted three “greener” vehicle bills.


    Supporters say the legislation will get more alternative-energy vehicles on the road, but at least one watchdog group says the lawmakers are backing the wrong kind of power.


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    Under one plan, New Jersey would add electric car-charging stations and natural gas-fueling stations to some rest areas along the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

    The New Jersey Sierra Club supports the legislation and spokesman Jeff Tittel says the bills could give consumers confidence to buy “cleaner” environment-friendly cars.

    Jim Walsh with the Food & Water Watch says he’s disappointed that lawmakers are backing natural gas infrastructure, instead of “promoting and investing” in sustainable technologies.

    Walsh said he wants “more efficient, more effective solar panels, more efficient, more effective wind power, battery usage … things that will actually reduce our energy usage out of the box.”

    The decisions lawmakers make now will set the stage for New Jersey’s energy dependence for years to come, Walsh said.

    “We don’t rely on natural gas for a tremendous amount of our energy at this point and time, we’re mainly on coal and nuclear, and need to move toward sustainable energy,” Walsh said. “Gas is a false promise.”

    Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the administration is monitoring the trio of bills from state Sen. Bob Smith’s committee.

    Ragonese said the department is in the last phase of retrofitting government-owned buses, trucks and construction equipment to run on cleaner-burning diesel fuel. So, he said, another big change for that fleet seems unlikely.

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