HOUSTON—President Obama, top energy executives, and state officials are all touting natural-gas-powered cars and trucks in a series of events this week. But some environmentalists and conservative groups are starting to push back as the Senate gears up to vote on legislation on Thursday that would provide tax incentives for purchases and production of natural-gas-fueled trucks.
“The president has proposed we switch trucks to natural gas, and I’m here to tell you today that every truck we switch to natural gas damages the atmosphere,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates annual conference here. Krupp said the little data available about how much methane — a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide — escapes during the production of shale natural gas compels him to refuse to support a shift toward more natural-gas vehicles.
“We’re against what the president called for in the State of the Union until they [the natural-gas industry] can demonstrate they can get the leak rate down below 1 percent,” Krupp added. The Environmental Defense Fund’s opposition to the proposal is notable; it is one of the only environmental groups willing to work with industry on the concerns surrounding shale natural gas, which has been discovered in vast amounts all over the country in the past few years.
Back in Washington, conservative organizations concerned chiefly about reducing the federal deficit are sending letters to senators urging a “no” vote on a bipartisan measure sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., that would expand tax credits for buyers of natural-gas-powered trucks and installation of fueling stations as well as production tax credits for manufacturers of vehicles that run on natural gas. The Senate could vote on it as soon as Thursday afternoon as part of a series of amendments to the surface-transportation bill. It’s not expected to pass, but the vote could put some politically vulnerable members in tough spots.