The first question, directed to Robert Yuhnke, was devoted to the Bush administration's apparent reluctance to take the lead in international environmental protection. Elmer Cerin, an attorney, asked Yuhnke to comment on the Bush administration's position regarding alternate fuel legislation.The basic issue in Congress regarding alternate fuels, said Yuhnke, is whether to back the administration's proposal to mandate production of a minimum number of vehicles using alternate fuels (presumably methanol) or the alternative of setting standards for tailpipe emissions to drive the selection of fuel and technology combinations that would be most cost effective in achieving environmental objectives.Most environmentalists believe that we should not mandate a particular fuel until the environmental benefits of using that fuel are clear. Instead, they support allowing industry to develop technology capable of meeting government-imposed standards.
Major oil companies have a vested interest in opposing methanol conversion. ARCO is the only major oil company developing methanol blends.Conversely, most natural gas is owned by the oil companies, and they would prefer a shift to compressed natural gas, which could have greater environmental benefits than methanol. The drawback to CNG is the large initial infrastructure investment necessary to make such a shift; methanol uses existing delivery systems. Congress is very conservative, Yuhnke continued, and does not want to upset powerful interests by pushing the nation in a different direction.The Bush proposal calls for 500,000 alternate-fuel-burning vehicles by 1997, but no tailpipe standard is connected so there is no guarantee of any environmental benefit.
Edward Betzig, a retired foreign service officer, asked Yuhnke to explain US opposition to international conferences on environmental issues such as global warming.He remarked that Yuhnke's remarks suggested that the United States was pulling in the opposite direction