Saturday, August 30, 2008

Carbon by any other name is still just as warm..

After a few day hiatus, the long weekend has given me a little time to catch up on my reading. The New York Times has a story on Utah's experiment with Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles and the tax incentives provided to but cars that use natural gas. Utah is unique in that they have an infrastructure in place for natural gas delivery, which most states don't have. They also have a regulated gas market that artificially distorts the cost of the gas market, and that is what is driving its popularity not the supposed 20% reduction in greenhouse gases that LNG provides.

So prima facie it appears that moving our infrastructure to LNG would be a winner, it would be lower cost and it would reduce green house emissions. But the problem as I see is that economically it encourages driving again because people think of total cost of transport and will drive further and more. The recent gas hike prices show that behavior can be changed as long as their feedback. The equivalent cost of $0.87 per gallon fuel makes transport an invisible cost. If there was a true concern for greenhouse emissions, we would move to LNG as the primary fuel and cost it identical to gasoline. New cars would be LNG, and older cars would be grandfathered with gasoline. As time goes on, more LNG would be the dominant fuel and the 20% reduction would be realized, and users would alter their transport behavior.

Impossible, it's happened before and it's happening now. In the past, we made the decision for public health reasons to move from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline. And the auto industry survived, imagine that. The same thing is happening now with the transition from standard definition to high definition television.

LNG is a stop gap technology, our population is increasing. We need more bold steps away from a carbon economy, what that is I'm not sure. But just because we don't know doesn't mean we can't figure it out. Cause yes together We Can Solve the Climate Crisis.


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