If natural gas gets any cheaper, the energy industry will have to pay people to take it. The government is already paying people to buy CNG-burning vehicles, but more people need to take advantage of it. Natural gas prices have been hovering around $2 per 1,000 cubic feet. Compressed Natural Gas prices are below $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent. The state offers a generous income tax credit for the purchase of a CNG vehicle or conversion of a gasoline engine to run on CNG, but Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said he found tepid support for switching to CNG among motorists he talked to at gas stations during the Easter break. Despite high gas prices, switching to alternative fuels has been slow to develop.
CNG station in Norman, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
President Obama used his recent trip to the Cushing area to tout an executive order fast-tracking the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline. He should have saved taxpayers the money. Critics pointed out that federal help wasn’t needed to move the project forward. National Journal’s energy and environmental experts agree. In a survey, 71 percent said this week that the executive order was unnecessary, and most concurred that the pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast needs only local approval. The president’s involvement is “not even remotely necessary,” one insider said. Another said it “looks like federal government interfering in the traditionally local decision of land-use planning, and it likely won’t actually change the permitting process, which is already under way. Not great optics — and I say this as a fan of the president.”
President Obama’s remarks in Cushing ran to about 1,060 words. The cost of getting Air Force One here from a previous stop in New Mexico was an estimated $149,792. So the Cushing speech ran to about $141 per word, or slightly more if you don’t count the obligatory “Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.” The figure doesn’t include any other costs associated with the stopover. The words themselves were utterly forgettable, but that was by design. This was a photo-op so an image of Obama could be framed by pipes ready for the laying. A picture is worth a thousand words; this picture was worth about $150,000. The lucky few who attended the Cushing speech got something priceless to them — camera phone photos of the president’s brief sojourn in our midst.
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he arrives at the TransCanada Pipe Yard near Cushing, Okla., Thursday, March 22, 2012. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
We’ve noted before the tendency of lawmakers to waste taxpayer money with politically-charged press releases. State Rep. James Lockhart, D-Heavener, piggybacked on the presidential visit this week to thank the White House “for agreeing to allow” a pipeline project linking Cushing to the Gulf Coast. The project didn’t need White House support. Whatever agreement came from the White House is as hollow as an empty pipeline. What does need White House agreement is a pipeline from Cushing into Canada. For the record, Lockhart supports both segments. We know this because taxpayers funded a press release so that Lockhart and fellow legislators can campaign for re-election on the public’s dime.
AP File Photo
Heard the joke about the Chevy Volt? It was subjected to a battery of tests and all of them came out negative. The electric car, a darling of the fossil fuel-averse Obama administration, didn’t quite go the way of Solyndra, another administration flight of fancy, but it has been put in neutral. General Motors suspended sales after a rash of bad news over battery fires and slumping sales. Not to worry: America’s first plug-in vehicle is a hit in Europe, where it was recently named Car of the Year. “Battery-operated cars are electrifying environmentalists, progressives and award-givers,” noted the New York Daily News. “The only ones who aren’t juiced about them, it seems, are autobuyers.” The Volt is so politically correct that you can legally drive one solo on California freeway lanes restricted to cars with multiple passengers. Thus you can beat the fossil fuelers to any fire sales disposing of Solyndra’s assets.
NATE BEELER/THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Every once in a while, the people’s business really does get accomplished at the state Capitol. Witness the deal reached on $92.5 million worth of supplemental spending this fiscal year. The funding will help pay for the first Oklahoma Highway Patrol academy in three years, pay the $5,000 bonuses due to National Board Certified teachers, reimburse counties and towns what they have spent for disaster assistance, pay insurance benefits for teachers and support staff, and give a boost to the state medical examiner’s office. Legislative leaders recognized the worthiness of those causes, and so agreed to spend money from increased state revenue collections. The rest of the Legislature should follow suit and waste no time giving these expenditures the green light.
Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
Reports about the bill-collecting practices of the Emergency Medical Services Authority have been met with deafening silence by the head of EMSA. The agency’s CEO, Steve Williamson, has repeatedly refused comment when contacted by the Tulsa World about its stories detailing EMSA users who have been hounded for payment despite taking part in a program that tacks on a few dollars a month to their utility bill to cover ambulance service. EMSA is the ambulance provider in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and surrounding communities. It’s also a government agency, funded in part by taxpayer subsidies. Those taxpayers deserve much more than “no comment” from the person in charge.
Photo by James Gibbard, Tulsa World
A bill aimed at reducing distractions for young drivers made its way out of a state Senate committee this week. The bill by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, would outlaw the use of cellphones for drivers younger than 18. Last year, the Legislature banned the use of hand-held devices for drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses. But intermediate licenses only last six months, which means plenty of 16- and 17-year-old drivers are allowed to talk while driving. Crain’s bill is a good idea. Although opponents say current statutes allow penalties for distracted driving, having a law on the books prohibiting cellphone use at the wheel will make teens think twice before doing it. The more focused they are on the traffic around them, the better.
Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Numerous legislative efforts through the years have failed to put much of a dent in the number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma. This evergreen topic blooms again with a bill by Rep. Steve Martin, R-Bartlesville. Martin wants suspicion of driving while uninsured to be considered probable cause to make a traffic stop. That suspicion could be piqued through use of the state’s online verification system, which lets police know whether a vehicle they have pulled over is insured. Uninsured vehicles can be impounded after traffic stops — but driving an uninsured vehicle is not probable cause to make a stop. If Martin’s bill were to become law, he said, more vehicles could be cited or towed “without the need for the driver to break other laws at the same time.” It’s worth a try, at least until the next attempt comes down the pike.
Folks in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., complain all the time about traffic. They can just stop it right now. Chinese officials report a 62-mile traffic jam on the outskirts of Beijing that makes snarls on the I-5 in LA and the Capital Beltway look like joy rides. Road construction is being blamed for hanging up all those Chinese cars and trucks. The jam began Aug. 13, and one official said things might not be normal until Sept. 17, when the road work is scheduled to be finished. As much as it may disappoint The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who has opined on the Chinese government’s efficiency in dealing with problems, even a dictatorship apparently is no match for one of the byproducts of last year’s globe-leading 13.6 million auto sales to Chinese buyers.