19 July 2011
Throwing in with the Pickens Plan
Posted by John Freeland
The family’s out with the van shopping or something, so, I’ve got the place to myself. I downloaded an archived broadcast (April 2011) of C-Span’s coverage of a National Press Club lunch meeting. Obviously, I lead an exciting life. The guest speakers were Ted Turner and T. Boone Pickens, talking about energy. Pickens makes a good sales pitch and I’m about ready to “throw in” with his energy security plan – with improved environmental regulations and enforcement.
Pickens wants to get off of oil and use domestic natural gas as a transportation fuel. This will create more demand for natural gas and drive its price higher. If the price of natural gas increases modestly, then wind power becomes more competitive for electricity generation.
A few other highlights of the video:
1. The immediate priority for Pickens is to convert 8 million 18-wheel semi trucks from diesel to natural gas. From an emissions standpoint, converting one semi truck to natural gas is equivalent to taking 1,600 cars off the road. And, the natural gas is a lot cheaper.
2. Over a $1 billion a day leaves the U.S. economy to buy foreign oil.
3. Pickens takes a funny shot at Donald Trump.
The program is available here.
What does Pickens define as Natural Gas?
Our Government includes Coal Seam Gas in ‘environmentally friendly’ Natural Gas, which is also known to potentially have some detrimental impacts.
Hi Jess: I assume Pickens, a geologist, refers to thermogenic gas produced under heat and pressure deep in the earth, as opposed to biogenic gas produced in anaerobic near-surface processes.
When I was teaching school, I had a wise principal who had several favorite aphorisms. One was “there’s something wrong with everything,” and another was “given a little bit of information, people will fear the worst.” Both of those seem seem appropriate to the ongoing energy debate.
So you’re saying we should all pay more for natural gas, just to make wind power more competetive. Wind power may be ok for small situations, like farms, islands, etc. but will never scale to the needs of modern society. Also it has to be massively subsidized, and is unreliable, inefficient, and needs equal conventional coal/oil/gas/nuclear capacity as immediate backup when the wind doesn’t blow.
No, not just to make wind power more competitive. I’m interested in sustainability, which has an economic, environmental, and social component.
As Pickens says, 70% of oil is used as transportation fuel and it has no serious competition. Recently, oil prices rose after trouble flared up in Libya. Seems to me someone might want to see that trouble continue. Pickens says we are “funding both sides of the war.” That makes sense to me. It’s stupid but, like it or not, that seems to be what’s happening.
Expanding the market for gas by converting diesel trucks to natural gas would put a big dent in our foreign oil imports. That would keep money in the U.S. instead of it going offshore so someone can loan it back to us, plus interest. There’s the economic component of using more natural gas.
If we’re less dependent on foreign oil, maybe we can bring some troops home. There’s the social and economic component of sustainability.
If we can tap our own gas reserves, we can put more people to work. There’s the social and economic component.
If a growing market for natural gas pushes prices up, it will still be cheaper than foregn oil would be without any meaningful competition.
With higher gas prices, wind becomes more economical and can get off of subsidies, something we all want to see. The beauty of wind is 3-fold: 1) you don’t have to buy fuel, 2) you don’t have any waste (there’s the environmental component, 3) wind isn’t traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange so it is not subject to speculative price bubbles.
Long term, I expect we’ll save a lot of money by switching to renewables. The environment will be cleaner and we’ll have more jobs and better health.
Of interest is, natural gas is primarily methane.
As you mentioned in a previous post response, microorganisms DO produce it on the surface. A vast and uptapped resource at present.
Of further interest is an interesting experiment conducted in Philadelphia nearly a decade ago. One that involved municipal garbage and trash.
It seems that one company, which was refused federal funding, as biodiesel is the current craze, used a high pressure/temperature/steam process to produce significant yields of light, sweet crude oil from that waste.
They remain unfunded in research, other than speculators investing in the company.
As for the natural gas fueled trucks, nice idea, but would only work in a realistic sense, in local areas. Many, many areas of this nation are NOT piped for natural gas.
ESPECIALLY for LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), which is what fuels these proposed vehicles.
We tried that one in Philadelphia as well, with some degree of success. It wouldn’t fare as well in more remote areas, where LNG isn’t available.
It’s a major logistical nightmare.
But, for LOCAL areas in cities that DO have LNG facilities, it’s QUITE economic and workable. The infrastructure only needs to be built.
I neglected to remark on one other thing:
Do not complain. It’s been my experience, over an over 27 year military career, one truth: Interesting lives are marked by their brevity.
I like boring. Boring is good.
Hence, my retirement from the military.
Where I DID manage to survive a VERY interesting life. Replete with funerals of those whose lives were marked by their brevity.
Your own field has a sub-branch that can become QUITE exciting and with a similar risk factor: Volcanology.
[…] to hydrofracturing to extract natural gas. In fact, I’m in favor of it as I previously wrote here, if it is done with adequate environmental regulations and […]