Respone to Port Authority Study to Retrofit Buses
The Port Authority’s plan to convert their bus fleet to natural gas (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11325/1191479-53-0.stm) is shortsighted and does not address the issues it claims to address, not to mention the plan was built by a conflict of interest. First, the plan is funded in part by EQT, a corporate natural gas driller. The Heinz Endowment does not have credibility either. The president of the Heinz Endowment, Robert Vagt, ran gas and oil companies in Texas for 15 years.
It’s easy to point out the problems with the plan itself. The plan touts the ‘cleaner’ nature of natural gas. First, I acknowledge that diesel exhausts nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide . However, the process of extracting natural gas releases all these and more. The Governor’s Commission has acknowledged that natural gas drilling releases nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hazardous air pollutants that can be benzene and toluene and volatile organic compounds. They further cite radium, thorium and radon as sources of air pollution. Therefore, switching diesel buses to natural gas does nothing to solve our air pollution problems, but would exacerbate the problem.
However, the main question here is how to reduce pollution due to transportation. I want to offer solutions instead of just pointing out the false statements of industry and questionable funded research. Remember that the Port Authority faced massive cuts in service over the past year. We are faced with fewer buses on the road, forcing more cars to compensate for transportation needs. This wastes both time and fuel (whatever type of fossil fuels are used). The $3.1 million dollars that Port Authority is receiving for this project from the Federal Government can be better spent for improving and growing mass transit in Allegheny County. For example, a bus network has been proposed to increase efficiency of the bus system, thereby drawing more riders and taking cars off the road. If we can seek of ‘public-private partnerships’ and ‘grants and partners’ to engage in subsidizing natural gas consumption, then we can do the same thing to help promote mass transit for the sake of removing cars, therefore slashing congestion and pollution due to transportation. This would achieve the goal of less pollution in Western Pennsylvania, while not jumping from the proverbial 'frying pan into the fire'.
(1) Griswald, Eliza. “Situation Normal / All Fracked Up”, The New York Times Magazine. Nov 20, 2011. Print.
(2) “Diesel Vehicle Exhaust” California Department of Health. November, 2002. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/hesis/Documents/di...
(3) “Governor’s Marcellus Advisory Comission.” July 22, 2011
(4) Schmitz, Jon. “$80.7 M sought for bus network” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 23, 2009. Electronic.