Honorable Steve Kagen, M.D.

Wisconsin's former 8th District Representative

January 4, 2007 to December 22, 2010

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Natural gas can cut our use of oil for fuel

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 by

Natural gas can cut our use of oil for fuel

By Rep. Steve Kagen and T. Boone Pickens
Appleton Post-Crescent
December 7, 2009

A substantial amount of that energy that people in Northeast Wisconsin use to heat and light their homes, cook their food, work their farms, and run their cars and trucks comes from gasoline and diesel fuel refined from oil.

The United States uses about a quarter of the world’s daily oil supplies.  Oil-based transportation accounts for a large percentage of greenhouse gases. No matter what your position on global climate change, we can all agree it is better to put less pollution into our atmosphere than more.

Seventy percent of the oil we import is used to power America’s enormous fleet of passenger vehicles, light duty pickups and SUVs, and heavy-duty vehicles like 18-wheelers, refuse and recycling trucks; and, municipal and school buses.

In the summer of 2008, gas prices were sky high.  In our area, hopping on a subway is simply not an option.  People need their cars and trucks to get to work and kids need buses to go to school. That was when the Pickens Plan was unveiled – a specific, broad-based program to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

In October of this year we imported 357 million barrels of oil which cost us $26.5 billion. Our hard-earned money flowed out of the U.S. economy and into the economies of countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Venezuela; countries which are from unstable regions that do not have our best interests in mind, or both.

Fortunately, we have a domestic resource that can be used for the production of electricity as well as for taking its place as America’s principal transportation fuel. That resource is natural gas.

The Potential Gas Committee, in conjunction with the Colorado School of Mines has released a study that says there is as much as 2,000 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas in the continental United States.  That amount of natural gas contains more energy than all the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and enough to last us well over 100 years.

When used as a fuel, natural gas releases only about half the greenhouse gases as are produced by burning gasoline or diesel.

If we replaced all of the 18-wheelers operated by the major trucking companies alone on their regular rotation schedule, we will be able to reduce by half the amount of oil we need to import from those oil producing nations in just over seven years.

The NAT GAS Act (H.R. 1835 in the House and S. 1408 in the Senate) is currently making its way through Congress.  It will provide tax incentives for fleet owners to begin switching from vehicles now burning gasoline or diesel produced from imported oil, to cars and trucks that run on America’s own natural gas.

Congress has been listening and is taking bipartisan action with a new bill which will help Wisconsin and all America to reduce its dangerous, costly, and environmentally harmful reliance on imported oil.  Switching to America’s own natural gas will help clean our air, save lives and improve our economy – and it cannot come soon enough.

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