As Americans, we have abundant choices in virtually everything. From the cars we drive to the food we eat, freedom of choice is a defining part of our country. Read more
The U.S. House approved, for the ninth time, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry Canadian tar-sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico.
The bill passed Friday by a vote of 252-161, but prospects in the Senate are unclear. The Senate is due to take up the bill Tuesday, but the measure must beat the 60-vote threshold to move forward.
USA Today reports:
If it overcomes a 60-vote threshold it will head to President Obama’s desk where he will either sign it into law or veto it. The president has delayed a decision on the pipeline, deferring to an ongoing review at the State Department, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Thursday that the president could veto it.
Obama has declared previously that he would only approve the pipeline if it could be demonstrated that the project wouldn’t increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has been promoting her own bill in the Senate. The bill approved Friday was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. He will face Landrieu in a runoff election next month for the Senate. Landrieu has an uphill battle to win a fourth term: Although she beat Cassidy by 1.2 percentage points on Election Day last week, neither candidate won at least 50 percent of the total, forcing the runoff. Observers expect much of the support of the third-party candidate in that race, Rob Maness, a Tea Party favorite who won 14 percent in the election, to swing to Cassidy.
Why is Landrieu so strongly in favor of Keystone XL? A story on Slate.com tried to figure that out, as well as why the leadership in the (for now) Democratic-controlled Senate is so willing to bring her bill to the floor for a vote:
What’s befuddling isn’t that the Democrats are playing politics with Keystone—it’s that they’re playing them so poorly. Thanks to their seven-seat-and-counting gain on Election Day, Republicans will take control of the Senate next year for the first time since George W. Bush’s second term. More importantly for the Keystone crowd, the pipeline is all but certain to have a filibuster-proof 60-plus votes in the next Senate, whether Landrieu is there or not.
California still is seen as the state that exports innovation, despite the fact that it has seen some tough economic times of late. In this context, I was pleased to see the recognition granted by the Orange County Register (Nov 6) to the Clean Energy Fuel Corporation, and its efforts to build the Natural Gas Highway. I was even more surprised to find out that the corporate offices were located near my own office. Clearly, the popularity of natural gas and its derivatives, ethanol and methanol, are on the uptake since the President’s State of the Union address indicating the nation’s economy and environment would benefit if it weaned itself off oil and by implication gasoline. Even before Obama’s speech, there was a growing recognition among many Americans– including environmental and business leaders– that natural gas could become the core of a strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) and other pollutants, lowering the costs of vehicular fuel, and reducing dependency on oil imports, thus providing funds for investment in the U.S. Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, located in Newport Beach, is making it easier for consumers to access natural gas for their vehicles. According to the story in the Register, it has invested more than $300 million in the last two years on natural gas fuel stations across the nation. Most of the more than 400 stations that they have developed and offer only compressed natural gas (CNG), a fuel that works better for comparatively short trips ( e.g. buses, taxis, garbage trucks, short hall trucks, local consumers ). Current and future placement of stations will increasingly offer liquid natural gas (LNG). LNG works better than CNG for long distance trips. Are the leaders of the Clean Energy Fuel Corporation nuts? Maybe they are…but I don’t believe so. While, the Corporation has yet to turn a profit (apparently after 15 or 16 years), since going public in 2007, their market value is now more than 1 billion dollars. Their phones are ringing. Large retailing companies relying on trucks, long distance trucking companies, bus manufacturers, taxis and bus companies seem to be gravitating toward use of cheaper natural gas as a fuel. But these users and potential users need assurances that natural gas fuel stations will be reasonably accessible. Clean Energy Fuel aims to provide such assurances. Many respected financial analysts believe that the Clean Energy Fuel Corporation is on the cusp of and will benefit financially from the increased acceptance and growth of alternative transportation fuels, particularly natural gas. Assuming both the sizable price gap between oil and natural gas remains and the corresponding price gap between natural gas fuel and gasoline as well as between natural gas and diesel fuel stays relatively large; Clean Energy Fuel Corporation’s future looks bright. Yes, it will have rivals. Shell Oil, according to the Register article, apparently is going to start selling LNG at existing truck stops. Soundings that I have picked up from natural gas leaders, CEOS of businesses dependent on trucking and diverse investors suggest an evolving interest in developing both CNG and LNG fuel stations and the Natural Gas Highway. In this context, 22 states, under the bipartisan leadership of Governor John Hickenlooper (D) of Colorado and Governor Mary Fallin (R) of Oklahoma, have initiated a collaborative project to buy CNG outfitted cars from Detroit to replace old state vehicles, when their time passes. Detroit in turn has promised to develop a less expensive CNG vehicle for the participating states which could ultimately benefit consumers. Given recent projections of the market for natural gas fuel by government and reputable private and nonprofit groups and increased advocacy for alternative fuels by a coalition of environmental, nonprofit and business groups, I wouldn’t bet against Clean Energy Fuel’s future health. My hope, however, is that it and, indeed, its competitors add room for natural gas derivatives such as ethanol and methanol in their planned natural gas stations. Apart from generating use by owners of flex fuel cars now in existence, their agreement to do so would encourage (the relatively inexpensive and easy) conversion of existing vehicles to flex fuel vehicles. Significantly, EPA has certified the use of E10 in all vehicles, E15 in vehicles after 2001 and E85 in approved flex fuel vehicles. Hopefully, EPA will soon certify methanol as well as approve an expanded list of conversion kits for existing older vehicles. These approvals are possible, if not probable, given the environmental, economic and consumer benefits of alternative fuels and the evolving politics of fuel. Allowing oil companies to sustain the very restrictive rules now governing the vehicular fuel market will continue to prop up America’s dependency on imported oil as well as support relatively high fuel costs and increased environmental degradation. President and CEO Andrew Littlefair of Clean Energy Fuel indicated, “With cheaper, abundant fuel, a network of stations, [and] redesigned engines …the time for natural gas transportation has arrived.” I would add, the time for natural gas based ethanol and methanol has also arrived. I commend Clean Energy Fuel for its initiative in developing the Natural Gas Highway. The Company, borrowing from President John Kennedy, has begun an important journey of thousands of miles in Newport Beach. Contrary to (and paraphrasing) the poet Robert Frost, hopefully the road they are building will be very well travelled. Maybe a couple of leisurely lunches near the ocean in beautiful Newport Beach could convince my colleagues at Clean Energy Fuel to consider working with producers of natural gas based ethanol and methanol as well as interested states and localities to extend the Natural Gas Highway to ethanol and methanol. It would be good for traffic and their bottom line, good for development of related commercial activities and, most important, good for America