Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

United Federal Policy Support Vital for Alternative Fuels

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

United Federal Policy Support Vital for Alternative Fuels

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter Until proponents of various alternative fuels band together and call for a comprehensive federal policy, there will be no action from Congress, an energy expert said Wednesday in Norman. "Individual fuel advocates have to quit attacking each other," said Barry McNutt, policy analyst with the Depart- ment of Energy, at the Continental Conference on Natural Gas Vehicles. The Canadian government and Sarkeys Energy Center of the University of Oklahoma sponsored the two-day event, which continues today. "If we don't stop that, we're going to be here 10 years from now talking about when alternative fuels are going to catch on." Bickering among pushers of various alternative motor fuels _ natural gas, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, electricity and liquefied petroleum gas _ will only cause Congress to remain inactive on the issue of lessening U.S. dependence on foreign oil by reducing demand for transporation, McNutt said. Two thirds of the oil used in the United States goes toward transporta- tion, McNutt said. "The easiest thing for them (Con- gress) to do is nothing," he said. "We're not going to have a single (alternative) fuel. We have to have a neutral policy. Getting there is going to require some recognition of other& fuels." There must be a unified front among proponents of alternative fuels to gain a federal policy initiative because Con- gress is more likely to consider con- sumer cost issues before environmental or energy security ones, McNutt said. And no state other than possibly California could be effective in a policy separate from a federal one, he said. Gasoline now is plentiful, and oil prices are relatively cheap and expected to stay that way at least in the near future, he noted. "In reality, most members (of Con- gress) don't give a hoot," McNutt said. "I'm not sure the average member is going to be an easy sell. I have a lot of doubt that this issue (air quality) alone is going to sell Congress." It has also been pointed out that consumers will not readily convert to alternative fuels as long as gasoline is relatively reasonably priced and avail- able. Steve Plotkin, senior analyst with the Office of Technology Assessment for Congress, agreed about the attitude of policymakers. He said there is uncer- tainty about changing technology, con- sumer acceptance and improvements in gasoline that cause Congress to hesitate to take a step. "Policy can make or break us," Plotkin said. Government financial incentives for vehicle conversion to an alternative fuel, such as in Oklahoma and other states, are not likely due to general economic conditions, McNutt said. …
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