41 minutes ago
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Senate Bill Aimed at Alternative Transportation is Anything But Supportive of Alternative Transportation
Yesterday I read a short little blog post over at Eco Friendly Mag about a recently introduced Senate Bill (S. 1408) with the purpose of greatly expanding the incentives for investing in Natural Gas powered vehicles (NGV). The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from NJ.
The bill basically calls for huge tax credits to be lavished upon the buyers of NGVs. Credits would be available up to $80,000 for such vehicles while also giving a tax credit to the investment in new Natural Gas fueling stations. Thats a lot of money. The fact that the cap on the tax credit is so high makes me believe that this bill is mainly aimed at corporate fleets, which makes sense. Corporations with huge fleets incur correspondingly huge costs to maintain those fleets, and switching over to vehicles that pollute less - about 2/3 less smog and 1/3 less GHG - and get better gas mileage - although not much better - is a way to both save money and reduce the pollution coming out of millions of vehicles (in 2003 the 10 biggest fleet management companies managed 2.7 million vehicles).
We've all seen the T.V. ads by T. Boone Pickens, so we are most likely all familiar with the arguments in favor of NGVs. But is Natural Gas really a solution, or just an option that makes people feel like our Nation is working towards a solution without actually doing anything to alleviate our problems? And should we be listening to a guy with billions invested in the Natural Gas industry?
I would argue the former option. Based on the fact that American Natural Gas production - check out a great post at the Oil Drum - peaked back in the early 70's and prices have seen a dramatic increase in the last decade. A large increase of NGVs on the road would dramatically push prices higher and increase the speed with which Natural Gas supplies are depleted. Do we really want to go down another road similar to the one we went down with ethanol? We have spent billions investing in infrastructure to lesson our oil consumption and pollution only to find that it increases GHG and helps to contribute to food price inflation.
Can you even call Natural Gas an Alternative Fuel? While its not oil it is still a Fossil Fuel that is easily depleted, and once its gone, thats it. If we're truly looking for alternative fuels to lesson our dependence on oil, shouldn't we be looking for something that will have a lasting impact rather than a fuel that will only be available for a time span measured in decades?
Finally, the bill itself is titled "New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions." What about promoting NGVs make them a form of Alternative Transportation? Are they a form of Public Transportation? NO. Do they help to lesson traffic congestion? NO. Are they a predominately single occupancy vehicle that runs on fossil Fuels? YES.
The name of the of the bill is pure PR. Who the hell - besides me, I guess - actually reads through these things? All people are going to do is hear the name and think it promotes alternative transportation, which it doesn't. As I pointed out in a previous post, the term "alternative transportation" is one of those hot terms that has in the last few years seeped into our social conciseness, kind of like "synergy" invaded the business world about a decade ago.
Ultimately, are NGVs a solution? No. Are they one option in a myriad of options that must be explored and invested in so that we can overcome our Nation's oil dependence and transportation problems? Yes.