Tuesday, March 22, 2016

DCED Urges House To Keep Incentives For Natural Gas Vehicles In Place

The Department of Community and Economic Development Monday told the House Democratic Policy Committee there are a variety of hurdles to the deployment of more natural gas-fueled vehicles in the state and the program created in Act 13 to provide incentives should be kept in place.
Denise Brinley, DCED Special Assistant to the Secretary for Strategic Industry Initiatives, said, “Pennsylvania needs to become more than a producer of natural gas. The
Commonwealth also needs our businesses and residents to become consumers. Now is the time for our state to harness our resources to drive economic progress beyond the boundaries of the resource development itself.”
She recommend the following natural gas uses: heat and power manufacturing plants; manufacture chemicals and plastics; power more electric generating plants; heat homes; fuel school buses and fleet vehicles; and manufacture, distribute, and apply fertilizers to grow food.
David Althoff, Jr., Manager of DEP’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance said the Act 13 Natural Gas Energy Development Program resulted in the conversion of--
-- 987 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles weighing greater than 14,000 lbs;
-- 119 Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles weighing greater than 14,000 lbs;
-- An estimated 13.9 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE) of natural gas fuel used annually, displacing petroleum fuel;
-- Vehicles supporting 41 new natural gas fueling stations built in PA (38 CNG and 3 LNG); and
-- Vehicles supporting 34 existing stations in Pennsylvania (30 CNG and 4 LNG).
As of the beginning of 2016, Althoff explained, DEP reimbursed grantees for the purchase or conversion of 434 heavy duty vehicles totaling more than $8.7 million in program funds disbursed.
[Note: DEP is now accepting applications for natural gas conversions through its Alternative Fuel Incentive Grant Program.  Applications are due April 29.]
Rob Altenburg, director, PennFuture Energy Center, stated, “Pennsylvania must work to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote alternatives such as energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. To do so, we must align our investments with our goals and avoid unintended side effects that promote pollution.”
Altenburg recommended, “To make informed decisions, policymakers and the public need to have ready access to the magnitude of existing subsidies and their impacts. We recommend that a non-partisan, governmental organization should develop and periodically update a comprehensive report on Pennsylvania’s energy subsidies.”
Michael Griffin, associate research professor of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, said, “First, natural gas is not a bridge fuel to a renewable energy system, it is simply a bridge to nowhere. Second, natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel compared to its other fossil counterparts.”
Griffin detailed a paper that he worked on that was recently accepted in the journal Energy, which shows a complete switch to natural gas from coal can result in a reduction of monetized health and environmental damages of between $20 and $50 billion annually.
Griffin also commented on whether incentives are needed to make the transition from coal to natural gas--  “I can’t imagine the Commonwealth can do much at re-work the entire electricity system as this is a massive change but the adoption of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) will be a step towards this transition. We should expect similar health benefits (but not as large) can be expected for natural gas replacement of diesel fuel because of the particulate emissions associated with diesel combustion.”
Tom Peterson, president and CEO, Center for Climate Strategies, stated that the matrix of justifications for market intervention combined with macroeconomic evidence and strategy suggests that incentives for natural gas in Pennsylvania might be most productive under certain guidelines he outlined in his testimony.
Don Brown, Scholar in Residence, Widener University Commonwealth Law School, offered details on positive developments from the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris.
Dr. Robert Howarth, professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Cornell University, stated, “In the past, industry as well as many politicians promoted natural gas, including shale gas, as a ‘bridge fuel’ that would allow society to continue to use fossil fuels for the next few decades while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
He said while less carbon dioxide is produced while burning natural gas than is true for coal for a given amount of energy, methane emissions from the use of natural gas are far higher than from coal.
Dr. Howarth explained methane is a potent greenhouse gas, one that is more than 100 times as effective as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere for the decade or so following emission when both gases remain in the atmosphere.
Mark Szybist, senior program advocate for Energy and Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council, opposed incentivizing natural gas as part of a plan to meet EPA’s Clean Power Climate Plan.
Copies of written testimony are available online.
April 11 Hearing
The House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a hearing on April 11 on clean energy jobs in Room 418 Main Capitol starting at 10:00 a.m.
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