(Mailed on 3/2/2009)
Mr. John Podesta,
Although I applaud the wind, solar, battery, and electric grid initiatives in the recent Obama administration’s stimulus plan, I was very disappointed in the lack of strong natural gas transportation policies. With all due respect to you and the President, you can do better.
America’s reliance on coal and oil are leading to economic contraction, environmental degradation, and geopolitical tension that not only threaten to destroy our way of life as we know it today, but all of civilization in the process.
Natural gas is the only domestic fuel that can be economically and technically scaled-up over the next 20 years so that America can significantly reduce foreign oil imports and reduce CO2 and particulate emissions. Prioritizing natural gas vehicles, the associated refueling infrastructure, and natural gas exploration and production would not only create millions of new jobs, but would rival past government projects such as the railroads and interstate highway system in terms of paying back dividends to US tax payers for decades to come. Natural gas infrastructure also paves the way for the cleaner and potentially cheaper hydrogen economy of the future. This is all very clear.
So, imagine my surprise as I recently read your quote at the beginning of Robert Hefner’s book The GET: Grand Energy Transition. Reading your quote, it would appear as though you understood Hefner’s case for natural gas transportation and agreed with it. Yet, where are the robust legislative initiatives needed to follow through?
Is the neglect of natural gas transportation initiatives due to Obama’s ties to the Illinois coal industry? Please say this isn’t so. “Clean coal”, coal sequestration, and coal-to-liquids are not economically and technically possible. You are smart enough to know this. So, let’s adopt policies reduce oil and coal consumption and transition the American people over to natural gas, wind, solar, and hydrogen. In this transition, natural gas transportation must play THE pivotal lead role in reducing foreign oil imports and CO2 and particulate emissions within the next decade.
If you allow the environmental “purists” to focus your policy strictly on electric cars, wind and solar, we will NOT significantly reduce neither foreign oil imports nor greenhouse emissions over the next 10 years. This failure would have catastrophic consequences. The Obama team must take action to make natural gas vehicles available, to make conversion to natural gas vehicles happen, to make home natural gas refueling appliances available and more affordable, as well as to build out the natural gas refueling infrastructure. It’s imperative.
If President Obama has not yet read Mr. Hefner’s book, and is not yet familiar with the GET mindset, it is in the country’s best interest if you bring the book to his attention immediately as well as to other key policymakers. Your administration will ultimately be judged by your energy policies. You are making some good progress, but bold action is required to significantly reduce American addiction to coal and oil. I hope you will be bold. A well articulated nat gas transportation policy would rally Americans behind you, strengthen the US dollar, and send a message to the other nations of the Earth that the US is serious about energy. After 8 years of George Bush, there is ZERO time to waste. Thanks for listening.