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Category — Natural Gas Politics

Joint Letter in Opposition to Special Tax Treatment for Natural Gas Vehicles (time for free-market, fuel-neutral energy policy)

“The federal tax code is already overly complex and needs to be simplified. It would be far better to remove all subsidies, set-asides, and special treatment for all forms of energy than create new complexities through the NAT GAS Act.”

This letter to Congress was sent by American Energy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Freedom Action, The National Center for Public Policy Research, and Sixty Plus Association. It is reproduced here for its educational value in the general debate over special government favor to politically correct energies.

Dear Senator:

We are writing [in regard to] amendment 1782—the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions (NAT GAS) Act.

Members of this coalition have previously written to Congress to oppose both this NAT GAS Act in January of this year and the previous version in May of last year. We are writing again because we oppose tax increases, subsidies, and special treatment for politically-preferred energy sources and this NAT GAS Act includes all three.

Say No to New Financing Subsidies, Special Tax Treatment, and Increased Taxes. The NAT GAS Act creates vast new subsidies for natural gas vehicles. The NAT GAS Act includes a scheme to provide large tax credits for natural gas vehicles, the production of those vehicles, and natural gas fueling infrastructure. These tax credits are “paid for” by higher taxes on natural gas fuel. This is both a subsidy and it is special treatment. [Read more →]

March 14, 2012   1 Comment

Natural Gas: A Better “Climate” Fossil Fuel?

When it comes to climate, are all fossil fuels equal?

“No,” the answer has been until very recently. In terms of how much carbon dioxide (the major force behind the human alteration of the atmospheric greenhouse effect) is produced when burning various fossil fuels to produce a unit amount of energy, there is a definite ranking. From the most CO2 produced to the least, the list goes coal worst, oil next worst, and natural gas least worst.

While it would be stretch to call natural gas the sweetheart of climate-change-fearing environmentalists, many have considered it to be the lesser of the reliable-energy-source evils. Of course, they rally behind the wind and the sun, but even renewable energy idealists understand that there needs to be a bridge between where we are now and where they would like us to be—and that bridge is envisioned to be constructed primarily from natural gas (a foundation furthered by the nuclear problems in Japan).

But a new study out of Cornell University makes the natural gas bridge out to be another Gallopin’ Gertie rather than a secure pathway to the future—at least when it comes to being a climate-change mitigator/savior.

The Climate Impact of Natural Gas

According to the carbon dioxide emissions factors given by the Energy Information Administration (which assume 100% combustion), coal burning emits on average about 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of carbon dioxide per million BTUs produced. Burning oil to produce a million BTUs of energy produces about 20kg less, or about 75 kg (165 lbs) of CO2. And burning natural gas to do the same thing saves you another 20kg, producing only about 55 kg (121 lbs) of carbon dioxide.

So, on the face of things, numbers like these are what make natural gas the darling of climate change mitigators. They see that a switch from coal to natural gas could cut global-warming CO2 emissions by more than 40%. This number falls quite a bit short of the long term goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%, but nevertheless it is a big step in the right direction. Thus, natural gas is viewed as a “bridge” to a largely carbon-free energy production—that is, it is a construct which buys time for other technologies to mature and/or be developed. [Read more →]

April 29, 2011   9 Comments

Power Politics: Enron Lives! (From Ken Lay’s “natural gas standard” to cap & trade today)

Editor Note: This commentary is reproduced, with slight revision, from the December 2009 issue of POWER magazine.

As director of public policy analysis in my last seven years at Enron, I participated in many legislative and regulatory debates involving electricity, although the public policy thrust of the company was the opposite of what I personally believed was good social policy.

While I favored free markets, the business model of Ken Lay (a PhD economist with years of Washington regulatory experience) centered on special government favor. Enron, for example, had seven profit centers geared to government pricing/rationing of carbon dioxide (CO 2) emissions. And in the 1990s, the company was squarely behind a Btu tax. Today, Enron would be pushing cap and trade and a federal renewables mandate–and a lot of mandated energy efficiency with its profit centers in mind.

Backing Gas

Ken Lay’s political niche began innocently enough with a unique, highly focused natural gas strategy, one that would culminate in Enron’s 1995 self-description as “the world’s first natural gas major.” In pursuit of that goal, Lay promoted gas-fired power generation relative to coal. He countered the coal lobby’s contention that the 1970s shortages were the inevitable result of a tiring North American gas resource base. “We had a surplus of regulation, not a shortage of gas,” Lay would say, and Enron backed up its claim by offering utilities long-term fixed-priced gas contracts.

Enron also challenged the tendency of electric utilities to opt for coal plants over gas plants because, under public-utility regulation, the former’s higher capital cost created more rate base and thus more profits. Citing new combined-cycle technology, Enron made the case that gas was economically and environmentally superior to coal for new capacity. For example, in March 1992, Enron unveiled “the natural gas standard” in letters, press releases, and speeches. The standard, set forth under Lay’s signature, declared: [Read more →]

December 5, 2009   2 Comments