The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Climate Bill: A Trucker's Warning

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 17, 2009

The House-passed climate bill is one of the most complicated and costly bills ever considered by Congress. At more than 1,400 pages, it's even longer than War and Peace. Yet, there's a portion of the U.S. economy that is being short-changed by the measure--transportation, one of the most vital sectors of the economy and the American way of life. Our transportation system of roads, trains, buses, cars, trucks and airplanes makes it possible to get to work, to school, to church, vacation, and perhaps most importantly, to attend the most important milestones in our family's lives--births, graduations, and weddings.

The U.S. transportation system runs on jet fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel, largely provided by United States refineries. And although the bill holds refiners responsible for 44 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions, it proposes to give refiners only about two percent of the free carbon credits. This carbon allowance inequity is one of the bill's biggest failings. At least one study shows the bill could push the price of gasoline and diesel fuel into the $4 a gallon range, which would greatly raise transportation costs for motorists and truckers.

This week a representative of the trucking industry testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the climate bill's potential impact. Ray Kuntz, chairman and CEO of Watkins and Shepard Trucking, made some statements that should have made the Senators in the room sit up and take notice. For example, he said that today's new trucks in combination with the use of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) fuel will have near-zero diesel engine emissions, and they are working toward an additional 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. "Put another way," he said, "today's diesel engines are as clean as comparable natural gas vehicles."

Despite the fact that trucks are cleaner than ever, Ray said federal requirements and state environmental mandates are placing a huge financial burden on truckers. And if the cost of fuel goes up, he reasoned, the problem will get worse. "Truck transportation is not a discretionary activity," he told the Senate panel, "it is undertaken for the sole purpose of moving freight for our customers. We are dependent upon the use of diesel as our fuel of choice out of necessity given its cleanliness and efficiency in moving heavy loads."

Ray added, "The intent behind climate change legislation may indeed be to raise the prices of petroleum-based fuels as a means to encourage consumers to pursue less energy-intensive or alternative means of transportation; however, those of us in the business of moving the nation's freight have few, if any, alternative technologies or fuel options that are available to automobiles and light-duty trucks."

Look around you. Wherever you are at this moment, it's likely you are surrounded by items that were delivered to you by truck. "Any substantial cost increases imposed directly or indirectly on trucks by climate change legislation will curtail the delivery of vital consumer goods across the nation such as food, medicine, and clothing. Constraining the country's freight delivery system would change our way of life for the worse by significantly increasing the cost of everything we buy," Ray said.

Take action now. Use the widget below to tell policymakers to vote against the climate bill.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.