By: Edward G. Rendell
States, cities, and local municipalities are feeling the burden of high gasoline prices across the nation. Just like you, mayors and city managers feel the pain at the pump each time they refuel one of their fleet or public transportation vehicles on traditional gasoline or diesel fuel. Each time they fill up, valuable taxpayer money that could be used to pay for critical programs or to hire teachers, police officers, and firefighters is instead wastefully poured into a gas tank, often sending U.S. dollars overseas to fund regimes that are hostile toward our values.
Foreign oil continues to maintain a stranglehold over our economic and national security. In America today, instead of spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars to better our communities and residents, we are pinching pennies to make our daily commute. In Pennsylvania, however, we have an answer to this problem, should we choose to embrace it, in clean, abundant natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
Throughout my tenure as governor, I witnessed Pennsylvania become an epicenter for natural-gas development. This influx of jobs and investment spurred an unprecedented economic boom for our state and, thanks to a resource found right here in Pennsylvania, this economic revitalization continues. Cheap, clean, and abundant energy is available to heat our homes, fuel our cars and trucks, and power our state’s economy. It’s not a campaign slogan, it’s reality.
Natural gas stands to make significant strides in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in particular, especially when used for transportation. By transitioning SEPTA to natural gas, Philadelphia could lower taxpayer costs and refocus funds while making significant strides to be a better steward of the environment.
Natural gas burns much cleaner than traditional fossil fuels, with tailpipe emissions 25 percent cleaner than gasoline and diesel. As a former mayor of Philadelphia, I know how important air quality is to the city’s families and residents. Using natural gas to power our buses, heavy-duty trucks, and other fleet vehicles will dramatically reduce hazardous pollutants, making our air cleaner and safer to breathe.
While improved air quality and savings at the pump are key advantages of natural-gas vehicles (NGVs), the most critical benefit is our increased economic, energy, and national security. America’s dependence on foreign oil puts our citizens and our economy in jeopardy. Year after year, as OPEC continues to raise the price of oil, we cannot afford to continue relying on unstable, undemocratic regimes to provide our energy. Natural gas offers a solution, an American solution, produced right here in Pennsylvania.
Despite these overwhelming benefits, there is a misunderstanding that residents must make a choice between protecting the environment and ensuring the dependable production of sufficient energy for power generation and transportation. This is a false choice. Pennsylvania can have both.
Before leaving office in 2011, I put in place strict regulations that require the treatment of fracking wastewater to ensure it meets the federal clean water standards, before it is disposed of in any of our waterways. We also imposed standards to prevent methane from contaminating groundwater by requiring the highest standards for fracking well construction. By allowing this robust regulatory framework to safeguard the marketplace, natural-gas development can become safer and more reliable.
I encourage the city of Philadelphia, citizens of our state, and legislators in Harrisburg to embrace this clean, abundant, Pennsylvania energy source for transportation. Natural gas can foster an economic, environmental, and security revitalization for our country and our state. I just hope we have the political will to get it done.
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