An open letter to Lamar, Bob, and Diane

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's my understanding that y'all take the position that government ought to get out of the way of business when its trying to grow, employ people, make money and generally prosper.

So, here's an opportunity to deliver on the recurring announcement that government ought to get out of the way and let business conduct business in a free enterprise, level playing field, open market economy.

Tuesday afternoon, I was told by a couple of businessmen from Lenoir City, Tenn., that they want to get more cars and trucks burning natural gas from under the surface of the United States of America.

On average, a motorist driving a vehicle fueled by compressed natural gas will spend about 40 percent less on fuel than when they're driving a vehicle burning ordinary regular gasoline, according to these businessmen.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) prices vary, depending on the location. It's about 90 cents a gallon in Oklahoma where natural gas is in abundance. In California, a comparable gallon of CNG costs about 50-60 cents less than a gallon of gasoline.

The Lewisburg Industrial Development Board was told that the technology exists to convert my 1993 Oldsmobile's fuel system to compressed natural gas, but that it's not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

They said something like "it's a dirty car."

Dang. I wash it at least twice a year.

Anyway, compressed natural gas tanks and fueling systems are something the Lewisburg Gas Department is at least thinking about. The IDB met in the utility's big conference room on Tuesday this week.

Foreign-made cars, notably Hondas, are available now for the average driver. We will have to wait until this time next year before a Ford F-150 pickup truck is available to run on natural gas. General Motors will have vehicles running on compressed natural gas, too.

Conversion kits are also to be available to run vehicles on methane. The two guys talking Tuesday said methane can come from landfills.

Right they are. Rotting garbage creates flammable vapors and they're being burned off at Cedar Ridge Landfill just west of town.

Methane also comes from decomposing, biodegrading sludge from the stuff we flush every day, and the city's burning it off now at the sewage treatment plant.

Remarkably, the PBG Energy businessmen say natural gas is being used extensively in Pakistan, you know, that place where Osama bin Laden got shot. The Saudis are using an awful lot of natural gas, too, and they sell U.S. companies a tremendous amount of oil from which - as you know - gasoline is produced.

Converting my '93 Olds, now known as the Newsmobile, into a natural gas burning car would cost less than the subsidy paid to get people to buy electric cars. The old Newsmobile is still comfortable and if those conversion kits could be made available to the mechanics in town, I'd buy natural gas from the utility here, assuming there would be a filling station at the Lewisburg Gas Department.

So, do something to get EPA out of the way so I can cut my driving fuel bill by 40 percent for that car.

[To those who like the idea, write to: Sen. Lamar Alexander, 3322 West End Avenue, No. 120, Nashville, TN 37203; Sen. Bob Corker, 3322 West End Ave., Suite 610 Nashville, TN 37203; and U.S. Rep. Diane Black, 305 W. Main St., Murfreesboro, TN 37130. I'd give you the e-mail address, but the postal service needs the business.]

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.