The stiff-necked philosophies of the environmental and energy lobbies have killed most of the US's political solutions to global warming (i.e., Climate Change). Yet, there exists a less strident path for resolving some global warming issues while meeting the public's concern for reducing the deficit and solving our energy needs. The solution is natural gas.
Polls show Climate Change is dead as a politically accepted man-made phenomenon in the USA. The American public just doesn't care anymore. Consequently, Congressional solutions start to evaporate if people do not believe that man causes or at least significantly contributes to global warming. This is especially true in the current economic climate.
The Pew Research Center for People and the Press has been tracking public opinion on Climate Change for a number of years. They recently studied public opinion on two questions:
- Is there solid evidence of global warming?
- If so, is it because of human activity?
Overall, an affirmative answer to the first question has dropped from 77% in 2006 to 57% in 2009. That's 20 percentage points in four years! At this rate, we will be below 50% by the next Presidential election. In the EU, a recent poll identified Climate Change as the second most important issue after poverty and water; the economy placed third.
An even more startling result is how few people believe global warming is caused by human activity. On this question, the percentage who believe global warming is man-made has dropped from 47% in 2006 to 36% in 2009. On the basis of political party, the response to this question is even starker. About one-third of all Independents and less than one-fifth of all Republicans believe that global warming is man-made.
Compare these statistics to another Pew Research Center poll asking what issues should be Congressional priorities. The deficit and energy are the second (70%) and third (66%) most important issues. Deficit reduction and energy concerns can work together to address global warming by embracing the expanded use of natural gas in transportation.
Natural gas is the clean fossil fuel. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the following benefits of moving from gasoline to compressed natural gas (CNG).
- Reduces carbon dioxide emissions 25%
- Reduces nitrogen oxide emissions 35%-60%
- Reduces non-methane hydrocarbon emissions 50%-75%
- Emits fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants
- Emits little or no particulate matter
- Eliminates evaporative emissions
Natural gas is a homegrown fossil fuel that generates revenue for government through royalties. Royalties can be used in lieu of taxes to pay for deficit reduction and government services. Furthermore, every oil dollar replaced with a natural gas dollar improves the balance of trade.
CNG cars, buses, and trucks exist around the world and in the US. These urban, short-haul vehicles can rely on existing natural gas pipelines. Natural gas retrofitting of automobiles is relatively inexpensive and generates local jobs.
All this seems to be a rich environment for compromise. Help the deficit. Reduce our balance of payments. Improve the environment. Best of all, do it today.