Emmett Tyrrell
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WASHINGTON -- Last week was the culmination of a process begun years ago. A bill was introduced to Congress that could end American dependence on foreign oil. What is called the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act -- more simply put, the NAT GAS Act -- was introduced to Congress on April 6. It has bipartisan support. It ought to pass and pass promptly. It could be called the Boone Pickens bill.

The process began with the Pickens Plan for global energy security in 2008. Authored by legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens, who put some $80 million of his own money into promoting it, it called for the development of all sources of energy, even wind and solar. Boone recognized that as long as America is dependent on foreign oil, America has a national security problem. We import 70 percent of our oil, an amount that can only go up unless something is done. The oil comes from unfriendly countries in the worst scenarios, unstable countries in slightly better scenarios. Canada is the best scenario but cannot provide all the oil we need.

In the meantime, a very auspicious development has taken place. America has become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. In fact, we probably have more energy capacity in natural gas than the Saudis have in oil.

In the past few years, natural gas has been found in abundance in the United States. We have more than 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, mostly in Appalachia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas -- more than twice the amount of Saudi oil, enough to last us 100 years, probably more. Recent innovations make it cleaner to burn and cheaper to use. It is the only fuel that can replace diesel in semis and other heavy-duty vehicles. Battery power will not work on these behemoths, nor will ethanol.

The NAT GAS Act that is pending before Congress would extend and increase tax credits for natural gas and fueling. The key clauses call for the orderly replacement of diesel-powered 18-wheelers and other heavy-duty vehicles with ones that use natural gas, over a five- to seven-year period. It also would give tax incentives to truck stop owners to supply natural gas. That would amount to a savings of 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. It would cut our reliance on OPEC oil by 50 percent. This is why Boone calls it "a game changer." With our reliance on OPEC down by 50 percent, the oil producers would have to negotiate with us for the price they charge us for oil. Also, we would have a breathing spell during which to find alternative sources of energy.

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Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
 
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