I see from some of the comments following this story that my position needs to be clarified. There are several reasons that I think this is an important step forward. First, I have long advocated that we should use natural gas to directly fuel our vehicles instead of using the convoluted step of turning it into ethanol. Proponents of ethanol will often say “But there isn’t enough infrastructure.” This bill would help build out infrastructure.
Second, with respect to this simply trading out one fossil fuel for another. That is true, today. But it helps diversify our energy supply. Most importantly, though, is that it is much easier to produce biogas than to produce renewable liquid fuels. Therefore, natural gas has the potential to supply a significant portion of our renewable fuels.
Finally, natural gas vehicles burn much cleaner. All of these factors are what helped lead Brazil to build up a large fleet of natural gas vehicles (8 times the size of the U.S.). They certainly don’t use their natural gas for producing ethanol.
Representative Rahm Emanuel has proposed some very promising legislation. As a fan of natural gas vehicles, this legislation, while not perfect (I prefer incentives over mandates, and this may be a mandate) is a big step in the direction of actually addressing our energy problems. Press release in full below, and credit to a reader for calling it to my attention:
EMANUEL ANNOUNCES NEW PROPOSAL TO INCREASE THE USE OF NATURAL GAS
Washington, D.C. – At a press conference in Chicago, Rep. Rahm Emanuel today announced plans to introduce legislation that will compel automakers to make 10 percent of their fleet vehicles that run on natural gas by the year 2018. Emanuel’s proposal also includes incentives and tax credits that will result in the addition of natural gas pumps at 20,000 fueling stations across the country. The legislation will be formally introduced later this week.
“This proposal is a hat trick for America: it’s good for our environment, good for our national security and good for drivers who are suffering at the pump. Natural gas is cheap, green and American-made and it’s time we encouraged the use of natural gas vehicles here in America,” said Emanuel. “American drivers should be able to buy a car that runs on a cleaner fuel that is currently half the cost of gas. Developing cars that run on natural gas and making it available at the gas station or at home will save money for consumers and help end our dependence on foreign oil.”
Emanuel’s legislation would compel automakers to make 10% of their fleet vehicles that run on natural gas by the year 2018. The bill would also offer new incentives to make natural gas more readily available for drivers and could enable the construction of natural gas pumps at 20,000 gas stations across the country. The legislation:
Currently, natural gas costs about half of the price of gasoline and produces approximately one-third less emissions. Additionally, 98% of the natural gas Americans currently consume is produced in North America and current estimates indicate that America has a 118 year supply of natural gas.
“The United States has abundant natural gas reserves,” added Emanuel. “It’s time to start making those reserves work for us.”
American automakers have the technology to produce vehicles that run on natural gas. General Motors currently makes four different natural gas vehicles in Europe and Asia and Ford has previously built natural gas vehicles that were used in the House of Representatives.
The Emanuel legislation would also create jobs and help offset recent declines in the SUV and light truck market. Estimates indicate that increased demand for natural gas powered vehicles and natural gas production could create 500,000 US energy industry jobs.