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Sullivan: Using Natural Gas to Settle the Score With OPEC

Getting Congress to agree on anything these days is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal when Members from across the political spectrum come together with American businesses from across the country on a plan to end our addiction to oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

That is exactly what is happening with H.R. 1380, the NAT GAS Act. Behind a bipartisan call from millions of Americans, we have forged a broad coalition of more than 180 Members of Congress and more than 240 American businesses, large and small, to reclaim our energy, economic and national security future by unleashing the vast potential of American-made natural gas as a transportation fuel. 

We realize that every day we fail to act is a victory for OPEC and a loss for American taxpayers.

Currently, U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing foreign dictators by sending more than $1 billion per day overseas for oil. There is absolutely nothing fiscally responsible about that, especially when we have a cheaper, cleaner, more abundant alternative sitting under our feet.

The NAT GAS Act is a real solution to a serious long-term energy problem — it’s about putting our own energy to good use instead of continuing to invest in foreign energy and job creation overseas. Anyone who saw the most recent jobs report realizes our focus on jobs needs to be right here at home.

My bill provides short-term targeted tax credits to anyone who chooses to build or buy a vehicle that runs on cheaper, American-made natural gas. Lowering taxes to encourage the use of more natural gas vehicles on our roads will send a strong message to OPEC that we are determined to even the score.

Tax credits for infrastructure improvements such as natural gas fueling stations are also expanded and extended. There are zero mandates in the bill and all provisions sunset after just five years — hardly the “never-ending subsidy” opponents would have you believe it is.

Unfortunately, even common-sense solutions can’t escape the gauntlet of Washington special interests that are more interested in protecting natural gas as their own feedstock than solving a long-term economic and national security problem.

The emergence of natural gas as a transportation fuel has critics searching for arguments against its merits. Most recent is the claim that expanding the market for natural gas will drain the supply, thereby increasing the cost of energy used in manufacturing. This argument might have made sense 20 years ago, but it completely discounts the recent shale gas revolution that has made our country the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.

Some of these industrial end users of natural gas willfully ignore analysis from the nonpartisan Energy Information Agency, MIT, the Colorado School of Mines Potential Gas Committee and others indicating we have enough natural gas supply at current levels to last for generations. In fact, domestic reserves of natural gas are estimated to be twice that of petroleum and continue to grow every year. Opponents also disregard the fact that the EIA’s energy outlook forecasts natural gas prices to stay below $6 dollars per million British thermal unit through 2025.

Claiming that the NAT GAS Act could raise manufacturing costs again ignores the most aggressive estimates from the EIA predicting the demand for natural gas could increase by 1.25 trillion cubic feet in total usage because of natural gas vehicles — an amount that is less than 5 percent of the 24.45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas the United States consumes each year.

They say government should not pick winners and losers, but at the end of the day they want natural gas for their own segment of the economy and nothing else.

Natural gas is already a fundamental input to nearly every sector of our economy. Limiting its use in favor of any particular sector will only discourage development of this clean domestic resource.

Unfortunately, our bill’s opponents don’t like natural gas for power generation, for export or as a transportation fuel. They would rather hoard it for their own use at the expense of millions of Americans and businesses suffering under the weight of high, unpredictable gas prices.

Substantive change never comes easy, especially when it comes to energy security. But I don’t want the American people getting duped into thinking the opposition to my bill is about ideology; it’s about special interest groups that are fighting to protect the status quo.

Our energy future is not going to secure itself. It’s up to we the people to stand up and demand it. That is something worth fighting for.

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) is vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

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