Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Truth (or three) About Compressed Natural Gas

The TV ads regarding Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) say that it is clean, cheap, and it is American. Well, not quite.

Let's address the last point first about CNG being American. As a country, we import more than 15 percent of the natural gas we use (See Full Story). If it is so American, why, then, would have to import any of it? The TV ads also mentions the abundant gas reserves in shale basins. However, just like drilling for oil, we can't get to it because drilling and extracting natural gas from those areas is being blocked by the Democrats in Congress and by the environmentalists. That's why we import.

In terms of being clean? Yes, it is. It certainly doesn't contain the contaminants like sulfur that is produced when burning petroleum-base fuels and coal. However, it is still a fossil fuel and, for that, it gets a big "F" for cleanliness from the likes of Al Gore. Burning natural gas produces carbon and it is carbon, if you listen to the Global Warmists, that is causing the excess heating of the earth. That's why you will never hear a democrat promote natural gas. Just listen to Barack Obama and you would know this. He doesn't mention natural gas at all. He primarily talks about solar and wind.

Lastly, let's address the issue of natural gas being cheap. Compared to gasoline it is 40 percent cheaper. For a vehicle that it is specifically designed and built for natural gas it is cheaper to operate. But, that vehicle isn't. It will cost a few thousand more dollars to build than a gasoline version of the same car. Existing vehicles can cost between $8000 and $50,000 (for trucks and buses) to convert to natural gas. Even at 40 percent cheaper than gasoline, it would take the life of the car to recoup the increased costs of buying or converting a natural gas vehicle as opposed to a gasoline vehicle of the same type and size.

The purpose of all these TV ads by T. Boone Pickens and Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy Corp. is to get Congress and the American people behind exploring and drilling for natural gas. They both have a financial incentive to do so. By running these TV commercials, their hope is that the environmentalist that have been so adamant in blocking natural gas production are put aside by the public's need to get off foreign oil. They also hope that additional markets are created for natural gas by moving vehicles to this form of fuel.

This is not to say that Messrs. Pickens and McClendon only have a profit motive behind their beliefs. In fact, I firmly believe that they are very patriotic. They both can see a real pathway to our independence from foreign oil. Natural Gas is something that both these people know and know that it is capable of creating that independence. But, so are other alternatives. As I have said in this blog many times before, we need it all. Natural gas is just one facet in our energy future. We should include drilling for our own oil (to support our existing base of vehicles and power production), nuclear energy (because it is so clean and carbon free), wind and solar (because of the like benefits to nuclear; but, not to the extent being promoted because they have the downside of requiring mammoth space to produce energy), clean coal (as an abundant source of energy) and biofuels like ethanol and bio-diesel (as long as they don't infringe on food production in this country).

But, all these forms of energy are simply bridges to our energy future. I personally think that our future is in hydrogen technologies. It is clean, renewable, and almost infinitely available in this world. We can use nuclear, wind, and solar to provide the energy needed to cleanly extract hydrogen from sources like natural gas or, even, from water. That should be the long-range goal of this country.

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