Kerry-Lieberman natural gas provision is a loser
Q: The Kerry-Lieberman climate bill would provide tax incentives for converting vehicles to burn natural gas. How large a role should natural gas play in the switch to a low-carbon economy, and in a Senate climate bill?
This provision lacks energy and economic logic and justification. It is just one more example of the effort to buy support for a bad climate bill and reward special interests with taxpayer dollars. Like the tax credit for ethanol, this provision is just another subsidy for an action that cannot stand on its own.
At a time when we are facing a serious fiscal crisis, it is irresponsible to continue the politics of buying support by transferring wealth from taxpayers to special interests. Eventually, giveaways like this are paid for with higher taxes or larger deficits, both of which will make our financial crisis worse.
Natural gas-powered vehicles don't have any trunk space because of the size of the fuel tanks that they require. In addition to requiring much larger fuel tanks, these vehicles do not have the range of a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle. The typical family of four would not find it possible to enjoy the mobility that they do today.
There may be a role for natural gas powered buses and other centrally fueled vehicles, like delivery trucks, in areas where air quality is a concern. But, as a general policy, natural gas for transportation will not survive objective scrutiny. It is not cost-effective and does not represent the highest valued use for natural gas.
The best use for our large reserves of unconventional natural gas is electric power generation. Replacing coal power with natural gas will lower carbon emissions and improve air quality. This will not happen quickly because of the large capital stock of coal powered generation but it is the direction that power generation should take along with greater reliance on nuclear power.
Proponents of using natural gas to replace imported oil should turn their attention and research efforts to improving the technology and lowering the cost of coal liquefaction. The great abundance of coal could be used to produce large quantities of liquid fuel if technology could be advanced from its current state. Government sponsored research in coal to liquids has languished this decade. It is time to give it a higher priority. Improvements in technology could lower the cost and perhaps make coal based liquids cost competitive with petroleum based fuels.
The Kerry-Lieberman bill is poor climate and energy policy. It should be buried and rest in peace.
Posted by: plaza04433 | May 29, 2010 3:39 PM
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