There’s a good reason people feel they can’t get a straight answer out of Washington on climate and environmental issues. Recent conflicting news stories about natural gas are good examples as to why. While Biden officials and some lawmakers are attempting to scare consumers into believing they’re damaging the environment by using natural gas when cooking dinner or taking a hot shower, their rhetoric is undercut by their effusive praise at other times for natural gas’s climate benefits.
In an easily overlooked announcement made far away from Washington, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Park Service (NPS) touted the addition of a fleet of natural gas and electric buses to transport tourists around Grand Canyon National Park. The fleet consists of 20 compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and 10 battery electric buses. The focus of the announcement was on the climate benefits of the new buses.
The fleet is made possible by a $27.5 million federal grant under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. Biden officials flew from DC to the Grand Canyon for a press conference and coordinated statements of praise from local elected officials.
A joint press release between DOT and NPS promoted the fleet of natural gas buses as “safe and reliable” while “providing climate-friendly connections” and “leading by example in the fight against climate change.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the grant “will help ensure safe and reliable bus service for park visitors for decades to come.” FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said, “The new bus fleet will ensure millions of people can continue to visit the park and enjoy this natural wonder, while also providing climate-friendly connections to the regional transportation network.”
Lawmakers from Arizona joined the chorus of praise from Biden Administration officials. Representative Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07), an opponent of natural gas development in Congress, said the grant “will support NPS’ climate action plan to lower our carbon emissions.” Sen. Mark Kelly remarked, “Upgrading Grand Canyon National Park’s bus fleet will reduce pollution and enhance visitors’ experience of Arizona’s busiest park.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema added, “This historic funding made possible by our bipartisan infrastructure law represents an important step towards a cleaner, healthier, safer Grand Canyon National Park for the millions of Arizonans and tourists who visit every year.
Their comments stand in stark contrast to several proposed regulations from federal agencies to restrict oil and natural gas development, from tailpipe emissions regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) regulations targeting home appliances like gas stoves and water heaters. Even the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor are attempting to restrict production by defunding oil and natural gas projects.
So why the divergent positions on natural gas when the Biden Administration and certain lawmakers have emphasized for the past two-and-a-half years a “whole-of-government approach” to restricting natural gas? As with everything in Washington, it boils down to incentives. When regulators and lawmakers are trying to advance an extreme anti-oil-and-gas agenda, they’re incentivized to frighten people as a way of building public support for change. Yet when the goal is to promote legislative successes, the incentives change and they tout new federal spending programs.
As we continue to promote the incredible benefits that come from natural gas for the environment and consumers, we welcome the hat tip by administration officials and lawmakers for natural gas buses but we’ll be sure to remind them of their support for natural gas as a climate-friendly product when they turn around and attack.