A set of bills that promote natural gas as an alternative fuel and urge more drilling was adopted by lawmakers last week, building off of momentum that has sprouted up during the last two regular sessions.
For starters, the Senate Natural Resources Committee endorsed the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Revolving Loan Fund Program Thursday, which would be placed within the Department of Natural Resources. In theory, this fund would provide financial assistance to local governments to help them convert their current fleet of vehicles to clean fuel vehicles.
There’s only one glaring problem with Senate Bill 103 by Sens. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville and Mike Michot, R-Lafayette: there’s no actual money available for the fund. “There’s no state appropriation for this,” says Michot. “But we’re looking around for something. Right now, we can just go ahead and have the fund ready.”
“We could also put federal money in it, too, if and when it becomes available,” Gautreaux adds.
There is already some evidence that the federal government might be willing to free up money for the cause. For example, part of the federal stimulus package that was unveiled last year included millions of dollars for Louisiana to introduce compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel. In Shreveport, city officials have used some of the money to buy buses that will run off compressed natural gas mined from the local Haynesville Shale area and recent finds in the Gulf of Mexico have officials looking to make moves further south as well. Additionally, the Shaw Group is carrying out a state contract to convert other mass transit and school buses.
As a way to piggyback on all of these efforts, Louisiana lawmakers also approved tax credits in 2009 for private individuals who want to convert their vehicle to take compressed natural gas. In a matter of speaking, the bill by Gautreaux and Michot keeps the ball rolling.
Compressed natural gas, also known as CNG, is a fossil fuel substitute that’s on average 50-percent cheaper than gas. The Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association as well as the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association have called it an integral part of the Bayou State’s future.
While money for a state-run program is a challenge right now, so is infrastructure. California is on the cutting edge of this new technology, but has only 100 or so filling stations for its converted vehicles; supporters agree that Louisiana will have to catch up to make a real play.
In related action last week, the Senate Transportation Committee also approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 by Sen. John R. Smith, D-Leesville. The resolution urges Congress to “support expansion and use of domestic natural gas and alternative energies, and urge agencies to operate vehicles using compressed natural gas.”
The U.S. Department of Energy indicates that compressed natural gas can be used as a replacement for gasoline in most vehicles and it discharges far fewer harmful emissions than vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel fuel. Smith said the federal government currently provides, and is expected to increase, incentives for use of alternative fuels and, at the current price of various fuels, any additional costs to purchase vehicles to run on compressed natural gas would be quickly recouped.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.