Why Isn't Natural Gas an Election Issue?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In last week's acceptance speech, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney held out this challenge: "President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family"

But what if it were possible to do both?

One of the surest ways to help protect the environment while creating jobs and revitalizing our economy is through increasing the conversion and use of natural gas here in the U.S.

Why has this opportunity towards increased reliance on natural gas been so obvious and yet so difficult for politicians of both parties to embrace?

It hasn't been solely because 2012 is an election year. Boone Pickens was on CNBC last week marking the fourth anniversary of his "Pickens Plan," the failed congressional effort to invest in truck natural gas engines and fuelling infrastructure to run them on.

In fact, if anyone wanted to see political partisanship in action slowing the real economic progress this nation could make, they'd find no better example than the history of the Pickens plan and other natural gas initiatives in Washington.

Both radical wings of each party have made advocating natural gas use impossible. Democratic environmentalists are concerned about hydraulic fracturing and its possible impact to aquifers. Republicans are reluctant to approve further federal spending of any kind as well as risk a charge of "picking winners" in natural gas -- a charge they have made successfully against Democrats.

Of course, both radical wings of both parties are wrong: Overwhelming evidence from every independent research source has concluded that hydraulic fracturing of shale for natural gas has proven to be safe to our water supplies and is getting safer all the time.

Republican reticence to support natural gas expansion belies a long history of government incentives for developing new energy sources, from as far back as our development of coal to our much discussed modern tax incentives for crude oil exploration and production.

It is a fact that our government has been picking winners in energy for as long as there's been government.

The advantages of natural gas conversion and greater use are obvious but bear repeating. Natural gas is a domestic source of energy and promises energy independence here in the U.S. Production, transport and building of infrastructure for natural gas would mean millions of new jobs. Natural gas prices are literally half that of competing oil and gasoline. Finally, carbon emissions for natural gas are about a third that for coal and other fossil fuels.

What's not to like?

But it seems both radical wings of each party continue to wield enormous influence. Neither candidate has made natural gas a cornerstone of a new and necessary energy policy.

You would think in an election year at least one candidate would move to stake out this obvious position that would provide jobs, energy independence and greater environmental sensitivity.

But maybe it's only obvious to the rest of us who are watching this campaign season unfold.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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