Climate bill loses focus

The American Power Act proposed by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) on Wednesday has critics and proponents lining up their arguments. Why, I ask, does it have to be this complicated? These are some of the problems I have with politicians at times. They over-think.

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) calls the proposal a “tax” on transportation.

capoitoldomef.jpg“While others might object to our characterization, the climate bill clearly imposes a tax on transportation fuels and reallocates revenue from that tax for non-transportation purposes,” ATA president & CEO Bill Graves said.

Clean Energy, a natural gas provider, is in favor of the proposal, which would double tax incentives for natural gas vehicles for the next 10 years.

“Natural gas transportation fuel is a cleaner, cheaper, and domestic alternative to our ever-increasing dependence on foreign, particularly OPEC, oil. We applaud Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their efforts to move forward with a broad energy package that includes replacing imported petroleum products with natural gas in America's vehicle fleets,” said Andrew Littlefair, Clean Energy president and CEO.

Are you in favor of clean energy? There is something for you with tax credits. A proponent of big oil? Refiners would have to purchase carbon allowances matching their emissions output. That’s good, right? Not quite. Who will pay for that? You guessed it, the consumer.

There are also incentives for big oil too, as the proposal has provisions to encourage offshore drilling, according to the New York Times.

This is the problem. The proposal has too many loopholes trying to appeal to a wide audience - and I’ve only seen a small percentage of the 1,000 or so page proposal.

So, Sens. Kerry and Lieberman, what is it? Are we in favor of the environment or not? What is the ultimate goal?

To me, if the goal is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, to find alternative power sources and clean the environment, than write a bill that will do that. There is no reason why we can’t have bills designed to promote alternative energy sources without all the strings attached.

If we want more Americans to purchase alternative-fueled vehicles, then make it possible for that to happen. Can I buy a natural gas car today? Of course. Can I easily fuel it? That’s not as simple.

Is natural gas a viable fuel for the trucking industry? Yes. But it has limitations at the moment. Maybe we need to invest more to solve those issues.

There are plenty of companies out there, companies like AT&T, which are in the beginning stages of building natural gas fueling stations for their fleets. Perhaps we need to support those initiatives to create public/private facilities, whether they be propane, natural gas, biodiesel, or some other fuel source. Then maybe, the public will wholeheartedly embrace alternative fuels.

In the end, I agree with the ATA. The main point of this proposal will do nothing to actually reduce the carbon emissions in this country, it will only serve as a way to increase the final costs to consumers. That’s bad politics.

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