By Stephen Markley on July 21, 2008
It began with Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens' proposal to move natural gas use from power generation to the transportation sector. Now both Republicans and Democrats are jumping on the bandwagon.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) have both introduced legislation that would offer tax credits and other incentives to gas stations that offer natural gas as a fuel, as well as tax breaks to automakers to build the cars that would run on it.
Proponents of switching to natural gas as an automotive fuel point out that the price is about half that of gasoline and it burns much cleaner. Natural gas emits about one-third fewer emissions than regular gasoline.
This is the point where an independent media must say: Not so fast.
Yes, natural gas is cheap now, but it is a finite resource and a fossil fuel — just like oil. The more cars began to rely on natural gas for fuel, the larger the demand would become and the higher the price would likely climb. The price increase would also be passed on to those who use natural gas to heat their homes. Within a few years, we could find ourselves relying on imported natural gas from Russia to keep up with demand.
Furthermore, there's no infrastructure to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. This would have to be built from scratch and would require major investment, when it’s becoming clear that electric vehicles and fuel-efficient hybrids are the direction the auto industry is headed.
As most analysts have pointed out, it makes more sense to switch power generation to renewable resources like wind, solar and geothermal, then plug electric cars into this clean, efficient grid. While natural gas may be an improvement on oil when it comes to current cost and emissions, it’s still picking one poison over another.
Two Proposals in U.S. Congress to Increase Use of Natural Gas as Transportation Fuel (Green Car Congress)