The President’s speech today once again calls for increasing the use of domestic natural gas in heavy duty transportation, and he’s to be commended for that.
But it’s important to note that he has called for that before. A plan without action isn’t a plan, it’s a speech. We need specific legislative proposals and regulatory actions to achieve this objective if we are to meet the twin goals of significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a major reduction in our use of OPEC oil. Remember, natural gas in transportation is 30 percent cleaner than diesel.
So much of the president’s speech addresses power generation, not transportation. There are significant gains to be made there, and I’m hopeful he and the new Secretary of Energy will step up their efforts there. We need an action plan with specific policies, goals, and measurable results.
Here are some specific ideas to move the ball forward:
First, the federal government should incorporate natural gas as the primary transportation fuel in its heavy duty trucks, and require the same of those who contract with the federal government for goods and service movement.
Second, the government should equalize the excise tax on natural gas for transportation to level the playing field. This needs to be done on sales taxes for new vehicle purchases and at the pump.
Third, the federal government should provide vehicle incentives through tax exemptions or grants to accelerate natural gas vehicle market adoption.
We are seeing leadership at the state level, where there is a growing momentum to correct archaic regulatory and tax policies that disadvantage natural gas as a transportation fuel and actually favor imported diesel.
The growing “Natural Gas Highway” is well on its way to becoming the “National Gas Highway” largely due to the leadership of Governors around the country. Our leaders in Washington would do well to look at what is happening at the state level and adapt the appropriate actions to the Federal government.
On the eve of the 5th anniversary of The Pickens Plan (July 8, 2008), we have always regarded natural gas as a bridge fuel, a vision that was echoed last week by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a town hall meeting with Energy Department staffers.
I am hopeful that this speech will not be a two-day event on cable news, but will signal a wide-ranging, far-reaching development of a national energy policy.