Natural gas deserves a priority as fuel for cars, trucks

President Obama has it half right when it comes to weaning Americans off oil – his plan promotes using natural gas to fuel vehicles but also promotes electric-powered vehicles and solar and wind power.

The local benefits of transitioning from oil to natural gas for transportation are obvious. Increasing demand for natural gas extracted from the expected-to-be rich reserves in the Utica Shale deep underground in the Ohio will result in more economic development benefits for our region.

The benefits, though, are also nationwide. The most recent studies show more evidence that cleaner-burning natural gas, including the oft-criticized fracking method of tapping the energy, is better for the environment and more practical than the energy it takes to construct and power batteries.

During a recent White House speech, Obama drew attention to what his administration says is one of his top agenda items for the second term. He urged Congress to spend $2 billion over the next decade to expand research into alternative fuels that wean Americans off gasoline. He called for spending $200 million from federal oil and gas leases on offshore drilling, to research improvements on the use of natural gas as a fuel for cars and trucks.

But the funding is to also cover the cost of researching “breakthrough” technologies such as batteries for electric cars and biofuels from switch grass and other materials. Congress should steer support more heavily, or perhaps exclusively, to natural gas energy,