Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Memo to Obama: Follow Brazil to Energy Independence

As our dependence on foreign oil continues to be a concern for Americans, the topic of alternative energy is sure to be a hot-button issue in November’s presidential race. Obama has made appearances in several key states over the past few months to argue the importance of developing alternatives to foreign oil and to defend his “all of the above” plan from critics who say he’s abandoned oil and coal industries.  

The president states that America is producing more oil today than it has at any other time in the past eight years. He adds that the number of operating oil rigs has quadrupled to an all-time high.

However, it is the success of natural gas that Obama wanted to focus on in the Tar Heel state. in March. Surrounded by workers on the production floor of a Freightliner plant in Mount Holly, N.C., Obama praised Daimler Trucks for the production of its 1,000th natural gas-powered truck in November 2011.

“Here at Daimler, you’re not just building trucks, you’re building better trucks,” he told the hundreds of employees who had waited for more than four hours to hear him speak.

Daimler Trucks is the feel-good story of a company that is experiencing a growth spurt while successfully implementing alternative energy procedures through the manufacturing of natural gas-powered trucks. The plant in Rowan County, N.C. recently added a second shift and employment at the three Charlotte-area facilities has almost returned to pre-Great Recession levels.

Better BTU has always been interested in the topic of natural gas as an alternative to oil because we fundamentally believe it represents a better transportation fuel. While Obama has made progress in developing the industry, we can’t help but feel there has been a missed opportunity, and a large one at that.

CNG-powered vehicles have struggled in part because our country lacks the infrastructure to support them. The availability of CNG refueling stations is sparse, limiting the use for large trucks to short runs and preventing the average consumer from viewing it as a realistic option. We would have loved to see some of the money that has been passed out go towards developing a highway infrastructure that could support natural gas. Not only would prices at the pump be lower, we would also be less dependent on foreign oil. Jobs would be generated as stations would need to be built and piping laid.

Brazil’s government opted drive the development of infrastructure to capitalize on the abundance of sugarcane in its region and today it is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol fuel. While we aren’t saying that Obama’s “all of the above” policy doesn’t have its pros, had he taken a page from Brazil’s book, Obama might be able to point to a well-developed and meaningful infrastructure when campaigning for re-election. Putting people to work and creating something we need could have done for his tenure what the Hoover Dam did for Roosevelt’s.

For Further Reading:

President Obama Talks Alternative Fuel at Freightliner Plant – Charlotte Business Journal, Mar. 7, 2012

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