Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Full Committee Hearing entitled, "Opportunities to Improve Energy Security and the Environment through Transportation Policy."
Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 10:00 a.m.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for holding this hearing, and thank you to all the witnesses for joining us this morning. The purpose of today’s hearing is to explore some of the policy recommendations that benefit the environment while making us less dependent on foreign oil. One innovative way to achieve that goal is through greater use of natural gas-powered vehicles.
In 2008, when gasoline prices were above $4 per gallon, I was the first in Congress to introduce a comprehensive bill to promote the use of natural gas as a realistic alternative for the many Americans who were looking for price relief. The bill I introduced was called the “Drive America on Natural Gas Act.” Today, I'm encouraged to see that several members on Capitol Hill have introduced similar bills promoting the use of both natural gas and propane as a transportation fuel. Last summer, I joined with Senator Pryor to once again introduce a comprehensive bill to promote these fuels for America's drivers. In October, Senator Wicker and I introduced legislation to simplify the EPA emissions certification process for aftermarket fuel conversion systems. I’m glad to report that Senator Landrieu is now a cosponsor of that bill.
The bipartisan support for both natural gas and natural gas vehicles speaks to its potential to strengthen energy security and serve as a viable alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles. But to achieve these goals we must take advantage of our abundant, domestic supply of natural gas for use as a transportation fuel.
There is no question about the supply of natural gas—we have plenty of it and we can develop it. Last year, the Potential Gas Committee released its latest assessment showing that America possesses 2,047 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – an increase of more than 35 percent just since the Committee’s 2006 estimate. At today's rate of use, this is enough natural gas to meet American demand for nearly 90 years. Just this January, the Department of Energy released new statistics showing that the United States had eclipsed Russia as the world's largest producer of natural gas.
The advent of horizontal drilling is fueling an economic boom. A recent study from the Pennsylvania College of Technology estimates that drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale alone will create 98,000 Pennsylvania jobs and inject more than $14 billion into Pennsylvania’s economy in 2010. Multiply these numbers across several emerging natural gas plays nationwide and the potential economic impact equates to millions of jobs and trillions of dollars.
We have the natural gas supply and proven NGV technology, which has existed for decades. Therefore, its promise as a mainstream transportation fuel is achievable today – not 15 or 20 years from now.
As we work across the aisle to promote the development and use of our abundant natural gas supply, members on both sides of this committee are also working together to pass a reauthorization of the nation’s transportation bill. I won’t get into the details of the reauthorization debate, but I want to make clear that we need to avoid weighing down the bill with environmental regulation. For example, if members favor reducing greenhouse gas emissions or establishing stormwater regulations for the transportation sector, then they should do so in the context of climate legislation or the Clean Water Act.
While we all share the important value of environmental protection, it should be a value considered on par with the energy, economic, safety, mobility and other benefits of proposed transportation projects. In short, we need to devise ways to balance our transportation needs with our environmental goals.
Thank you, Madam Chairman. I look forward to discussing these issues with our witnesses.