I have always been for an all-the-above approach to this nation’s energy policy, but that doesn’t mean we need to jam a square peg in a round hole. Solar, wind, electric and natural gas all have their place, but it must be in accordance with an appropriate application. President Obama tried to grease that square peg into a round hole, choosing energy favorites with a hefty $2.7 billion, supplied by Volkswagen. Now, there is an opportunity for the states to correct that mistake and implement a more effective energy plan.
As you likely know, Volkswagen was caught cheating on its emissions tests, resulting in vehicles on the road that far exceed federal NOx emissions standards. The German car manufacturer was sued by the Obama EPA and settled for $16 billion with $2.7 billion going to the states, primarily for the creation of medium and heavy-duty vehicle grants to mitigate the NOx.
Each state will receive an allotment of the $2.7 billion, and the Governor of each state must appoint a department to create a plan for spending the funds that follows the terms of the settlement. However, favoritism is standing in the way of a cost-effective, energy-efficient, market-driven plan.
While all alternative fuel types are eligible for grants of 25 percent of the vehicle cost, guess which technology was granted special treatment to receive 75 percent of the vehicle cost? You guessed it: electric vehicles (EVs). Some argue that they are cleaner because they have zero emissions. Well, they have zero tailpipe emissions, but plenty emissions are produced at the generation facility that creates the electricity. Keep in mind that many are still fired by coal and very few are utilizing even a small amount of solar or wind. In fact, when you look at the NOx emissions produced to create the electricity to power an EV compared to the tailpipe emissions of a near-zero natural gas vehicle (NGV), the NGV is at least equal and likely cleaner. For example, the South Coast Air Quality Management District of California views the new near-zero natural gas engines to be zero-emission equivalent based on the district’s mix of electric generation supplying their grid – and they have one of the cleanest grids in the country. So, natural gas engines for heavy-duty trucks are far cleaner than diesel engines and as clean as electric vehicles.
While comparable in regard to NOx emissions, NGVs and EVs are miles apart on cost. An all-electric medium or heavy-duty vehicle can cost twice the amount or more of a similar vehicle powered by a near-zero natural gas engine. As for buses, an EV bus can cost you north of a million dollars.
So you can see, there is no environmental or economic case for favoritism of EVs over other alternative fuel vehicles. In fact, there should be no favoritism at all. I have always been for fair and equitable market competition – government should not reach in and pick the winners and losers. If the idea is to mitigate the most NOx emissions with a set amount of funds, states should be free to accomplish that goal in the most effective way. Now, it’s becoming clearer that the focus should be on getting medium and heavy-duty trucks running on natural gas.
That’s where America’s Governors come in. The 75 percent funding level for EVs is a ceiling. Governors can correct Obama’s multi-billion dollar give-away to the EV lobbyists by creating an even playing field for all alternative fuels, by providing grants in the amount of 25 percent of the vehicle cost regardless of whether it runs on propane, natural gas or electricity. Furthermore, providing the lower 25 percent will mean more vehicles get funded and thus more emissions reduced.
So the question presents itself: Will you, Governors, continue the Obama give-away or will you put in place a market-driven plan to deploy cleaner and cheaper vehicles on the road?
The choice is easy – it’s up to each of you to do what’s right for our nation.
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.
Mesa Natural Gas Solutions of Casper, Wyoming is one of the companies that will be recognized during this year’s award ceremony at the Pentagon. Tune in Friday, August 25 at 10 am ET to watch a webcast of the event.
Among the things I’m most passionate about are those whose serve in our military and American energy independence.
I’ve long championed the need for the United States to get off OPEC oil and escape the economic and national security threats posed by that dependence. Since 2008, I have taken the Pickens Plan’s educational efforts and policy initiative strategies coast to coast and back again many times over. Once again, America simply must get on its own resources.
I’ve also supported a wide range of military support organizations — including the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, Fisher House projects, the T. Boone Pickens Military Mentors Program, Patriot Paws, the Veterans National Education Program, and Operation Mend — through the T. Boone Pickens Foundation.
I am always evaluating ways to support these two key interests – especially when they come together in such a powerful way. These two interests successfully met through a 2014 investment in Mesa Natural Gas Solutions in Casper, Wyoming.
I have a great affinity for the word “Mesa.” I grew Mesa Petroleum into one of the nation’s largest independent oil companies. My 68,000-acre Mesa Vista Ranch, in the far northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle, is my favorite place on earth. A number of my other concerns, including Mesa Natural Gas Solutions, have also born the name.
U.S. military veterans founded Mesa Natural Gas Solutions and comprise more than 60 percent of its employees. The company has more than 200 years of combined military service and more than 30 overseas deployments in its ranks, all the way up to the top. Mesa’s President and CEO, Scott Gromer, retired after 23 plus years of military service, including two unit commands, three deployments in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as Major in the Wyoming Army National Guard. Mesa not only hires, employs, and promotes both veterans and active duty service members, but the company also supports them however it can.
Mesa Natural Gas Solutions provides clean, reliable power and other ancillary services primarily to the oil and gas industry by utilizing natural gas directly from the wellhead. Mesa provides turn-key energy solutions to its customers through services contracts that are inclusive of equipment, maintenance, service, setup, and transportation. Natural gas generators are money-savers and easier on the environment. Most diesel-powered generators require site fuel delivery three times a week; the natural gas alternatives do not require fuel deliveries, as they receive their fuel directly from the wellhead. Natural gas generators, which have much lower emissions than comparable diesel units, also reduce the amount of gas wasted as flare gas at well sites. So, the process is cleaner, more economic, and requires less truck traffic to the site.
One of my life-long regrets was the inability to serve in the military. The timing never worked for me. I was too young for World War II. By the time of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, I had young children and was deeply involved in growing Mesa Petroleum. I’ve tried to compensate over the years by giving enthusiastically to programs and organizations that benefit those who have put their lives on the line for this great nation.
Mesa Natural Gas Solutions walks the talk with its vets. If an employee deploys, he or she receives full pay and benefits for the duration of the deployment. All service members currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves receive full pay while gone for military training/duties, and are guaranteed that his or her exact job will be available upon return. The company offers flexible scheduling to accommodate service and training obligations, even without notice. Full retirement, medical, dental, and vision benefits are provided during deployment. Employees accrue vacation and sick time during deployment.
Beyond these steps, the company is proactive in finding ways to support the spouses and families of its soldiers while they are deployed. For example, the company’s leadership team regularly attends — in full force — award and honor ceremonies for military members to show its support in its community.
Their commitment to veterans has not gone unnoticed. I’m proud that Mesa Natural Gas Solutions was among the 15 recipients Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced as 2017 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award winners. The Freedom Award recognizes employers who have gone above and beyond federal requirements in support of National Guard and Reserve employees. Mesa will be among those employers recognized in a ceremony at the Pentagon on August 25th.
For this, I salute them.