WASHINGTON — The natural gas industry may have a powerful new ally in the White House with President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.
Emanuel, who represents a Chicago-area district in the U.S. House, was a lead sponsor — with Rep. Dan Boren — of legislation this year to expand the use of natural gas vehicles. He also appeared at a Washington news conference with Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon about natural gas supplies and usage. Tom Price, a senior vice president at Chesapeake, said Thursday that it "could be quite advantageous” to have Emanuel in the White House when Obama is crafting an energy policy. Price said Emanuel knows the issues surrounding natural gas — including its abundance and benefits for the environment and the economy — "as well as or better than anyone I can think of who’s been put into the position of (White House) chief of staff.” Emanuel’s departure from the House means the natural gas legislation might not have a top Democratic leader to introduce it next year, but Price said there were other lawmakers who could step in. Emanuel inserted the natural gas legislation into a broad energy bill passed by the House in September.