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Does Natural Gas Have an Ally in Rahm Emanuel?


By Clifford Krauss
New York Times
November 11, 2008


Just a few months ago, momentum appeared to be building for cars fueled by
compressed natural gas as a way to replace foreign oil imports.

T. Boone Pickens, the former oil magnate with a big stake in natural gas
distribution, and Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, a
natural gas producer, poured tens of millions of dollars into television
commercials promoting the idea, and a number of bills were introduced in
Congress offering tax incentives to automakers and consumers to switch to
natural gas vehicles.

None of those bills have gone very far and the natural gas boom on the airwaves
has gone quiet.

Meanwhile, natural gas was dealt a major blow in California with the defeat of
Proposition 10. That ballot initiative, which would have created $5 billion in
general obligation bonds to promote purchases of compressed natural gas and
other alternative-fuel vehicles, went down in a landslide at the polls — despite
heavy financial backing from Mr. Pickens.

But new hope for natural gas fuel interests may be on the way: When
President-elect Barack Obama chose Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois to be
his chief of staff, he chose one of Congress’s biggest proponents of compressed
natural gas cars.

Last summer Mr. Emanuel introduced legislation (PDF) that would mandate
automakers to build 10 percent of their fleet with natural gas fueled vehicles
by 2018. His bill also included tax credits and other incentives and mandates to
spread natural gas pumps to filling stations across the country.

The bill has gone nowhere, but natural gas stalwarts have expressed optimism
upon Mr. Emanuel’s selection. Tom Price, a Chesapeake vice president, was quoted
by The Associated Press as saying it “could be quite advantageous” having Mr.
Emanuel at the president’s side as one of his closest advisers.

And with the auto industry looking for help urgently, Mr. Emanuel is going to
have a chance to press his case.

 

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