Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, but the clean energy act recently passed by the House of Representatives does not provide enough opportunities to expand its use, according to two prominent former Clinton Administration staffers.

In a paper released yesterday, John D. Podesta and Timothy E. Wirth outlined proposals from the Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition that would increase use of natural gas and low-carbon energy sources.

Podesta, the center's president and CEO, was President Clinton's White House chief of staff. He also was co-chair of President Obama's transition team. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and on the coalition's steering committee, was Clinton's under secretary of state for global affairs and a former U.S. senator.

New technology allows shale gas reserves in the United States to be affordably developed, they say. These reserves could "fundamentally alter the U.S. energy system and play a larger role in helping to more rapidly and cost-effectively speed the transition to a low-carbon economy and reduce global warming pollution."

Recent estimates suggest that based on current production rates, there is enough natural gas to supply the United States for the next 90 years, they say. Gas findings in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere have increased proven reserves by 13% and have driving potential reserves even higher, they add.

Among the proposed policies the Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition support are:

Establishing incentives to retire old coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable and low-carbon electricity sources.

Establishing more credits and incentives for renewable energy.

Expanding carbon capture and storage provisions and research.

Offering more incentives for natural gas-powered buses and heavy trucks.

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