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T. Boone to the Rescue
March 1, 2012 7:59 AM   Subscribe

Gas for 1$ a Gallon? It's happening for this billionaire!
posted by Renoroc (72 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
If only I were billionaire! Then I could finally afford to have cheap gas.
posted by Fizz at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


Or we could drive smaller cars with smaller engines. Then even eight dollars a gallon wouldn't be a big deal.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aside from the broader point it rather depends on if you include the cost of the equipment and car conversion in that $1, I suspect. I have to give Pickens credit though; just like with his wind plan he/his people are very good at getting media attention when he wants government tax breaks.
posted by jaduncan at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


...or we could skim the article and see what it's about!
posted by ill13 at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


I wonder why he's saying this and has been pushing natural gas for many years. I really wonder.
posted by Blue Meanie at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nice of them to add the meaningless sexist throwaway quote at the end.
posted by ghharr at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


It should surprise no one that T. Boone Pickens is stumping for natural gas subsidies - after all, Texas is predicted to have some of the largest tappable reserves of shale natural gas.

On preview, this: I have to give Pickens credit though; just like with his wind plan he/his people are very good at getting media attention when he wants government tax breaks. Like the old proverb says, it takes a million to convince the government to give you a million.

I feel sort of conflicted because it really takes someone like Pickens to convince conservatives in Texas to invest in non-oil energy sources.
posted by muddgirl at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder why he's saying this and has been pushing natural gas for many years. I really wonder.

Are you implying that self-interest would in some way conflict with political decisions?
posted by Fizz at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2012



Or we could drive smaller cars with smaller engines. Then even eight dollars a gallon wouldn't be a big deal.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:05 AM on March 1 [+] [!]



Obviously that's a good idea, but I'm sure I'm not the only one that can't afford the transitional cost to buy a new car.

I'm driving a well maintained vehicle that's 20 years old. Let's say the 2013 cars are great and run on pixie dust and dreams, and don't pollute or use gas at all. How do I find the 30k I need to buy a new car and replace my current one?

Loans? Car payments?

I'd like to see the cost to the consumer and the environment incurred by swapping cars when we do this, "get more efficient cars stupid" thing.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've been hearing a lot lately about how marvelous natural gas is and how we'll never run out. Makes you wonder.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:10 AM on March 1, 2012


This is a fracking great idea. What could go wrong?
posted by maxwelton at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2012 [42 favorites]


So clearly there is a large aspect of self-interest for Picken's in promoting natural gas subsidies. But, I think promoting the usage of energy we have available in the U.S. rather than importing it should be considered a priority. The fact is we have to decrease dependence of foreign energy sources. Plus, it has the added benefit of making our country less willing to invade middle east countries to protect our energy interests.
posted by nasayre at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, maxwelton! You steal me joke! Now me must find new thread to joke in.
posted by etc. at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2012


Frack this shit!
Maybe we need to start thinking about composting our shit and harvesting the methane it generates instead.
posted by mareli at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2012


Maybe we need to start thinking about composting our shit and harvesting the methane it generates instead.

I see someone's been reading The Windup Girl.
posted by Fizz at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think promoting the usage of energy we have available in the U.S. rather than importing it should be considered a priority. The fact is we have to decrease dependence of foreign energy sources. Plus, it has the added benefit of making our country less willing to invade middle east countries to protect our energy interests.

I completely agree. However, when someone with a huge interest in one particular option for energy independence tells me that his option is the best I still take it with a grain of salt.
posted by Blue Meanie at 8:20 AM on March 1, 2012


"How do I find the 30k I need to buy a new car and replace my current one?"

Well seeing as he is a billionaire, surely it would make sense for him to make low-interest loans to millions of americans to fund this? win-win for Pickens.
posted by marienbad at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So clearly there is a large aspect of self-interest for Picken's in promoting natural gas subsidies.

100% aspect of self-interest. T. Boone Pickens used to be a huge advocate of wind energy (and subsidies for wind energy). Why did he recently drop wind energy from his "roadmap for creating American energy independence by eliminating the country's dependency on foreign oil"? Not because wind energy is infeasible nation-wide, but because it seems infeasible for the energy companies which purchase power from his clean energy company.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2012


And once we get fracking wells working to access natural gas deposits, we'll all be able to get natural gas to fuel our cars from our kitchen taps!
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2012 [23 favorites]


You can buy a non-conversion natural gas Honda for the price of a Prius. And in California, you get a sticker that lets you drive in the commuter lanes even if you are driving alone (the stickers for hybrids no longer work).

It's worth alone just to end our meddling in Middle Eastern, politics.
And heck, $1 a gallon.

Yes, I understand the arguments against (mainly fracking--though natural gas is cheap even if facking is outlawed). But there are a heck of a lot of arguments against oil too. I don't see us all abandoning our cars.

I mean $1 a gallon.


For the ultimate in energy savings, do CNG conversion to a plug-in hybrid.
posted by eye of newt at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, methane produces about 1/4 less GHG emissions than regular gasoline combustion. Even if he's doing it for the wrong reasons, environmentally, this would be a pretty big deal.
posted by bonehead at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time I see/hear the name "T. Boone Pickens" I think of a hideous genetic experiment involving T-Bone Burnett, Pat Boone, and Slim Pickens gone awry. Please tell me I'm not the only one.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:26 AM on March 1, 2012 [25 favorites]



And once we get fracking wells working to access natural gas deposits, we'll all be able to get natural gas to fuel our cars from our kitchen taps!


Hey, whoa there. This isn't communism. You'd better be paying the company before you use that gas, they're the ones that invested the infrastructure money to free it from the shale deposits. They've helpfully piped it to your kitchen sink, and you're just going to steal it?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:27 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]



Yes, I understand the arguments against (mainly fracking--though natural gas is cheap even if facking is outlawed).

It's cheap right now. What happens when a few million cars start burning it?

And forgive a very Canadian concern, but if the price of natural gas sky rockets because we start putting it into cars what does it do to my heating bill?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:30 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Woops, that first line was a quote.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:30 AM on March 1, 2012


Points against: This article isn't based in any sort of actual reality.

Once you figure in the cost of the infrastructure, you'd probably come out ahead overall if you just bought a normal Civic, got better gas mileage, but paid a bit more for fuel.

That aside, you'd come out far ahead if you drove a hybrid or an efficient diesel. You'd come out really ahead if you drove a next-generation plug-in hybrid (ie. the Volt). Electric infrastructure is also a lot easier/cheaper/safer to install than gas, and the Volt could truly be the vehicle that leads us through the transition away from fossil fuels, if they manage to get the costs down; it's efficient and has none of the range/refuelling pitfalls that affect other alt-fuel vehicles.

Some of the above drawbacks such as infrastructure and vehicle selection could be eventually fixed (at potentially tremendous cost), although others are insurmountable, and makes this a very foolish dream to pursue.

Yeah, the technology exists to transition the entire vehicle world over to CNG. The technology also exists to build battery-swap stations across the country, using currently-available technology. However, this doesn't doesn't mean that either solution would be cheap, practical, beneficial, or economically viable.

Domestic energy production? Great. Sign me up. However, CNG-burning cars doesn't strike me as the solution. It has too many of the same drawbacks as electric cars that are already on the market, and no clear advantage.

The Chevy Volt is the way forward; pure electric cars (a la the Nissan Leaf) with long range and quick/accessible refueling are the end goal.

You can build your power plants to run on Natural Gas to provide electricity for those cars. Power generation by natural gas is cheap to build, the plants take up a very small footprint and are clean by power plant standards, and generation can be scaled to match demand. However, it's still more expensive per watt than coal, and we could hypothetically use "Smart Grid" technologies to balance the load so that cars charge in their garages at night, reducing the need for those Natural Gas "peaking" plants. [From that perspective, over the long-term, Natural Gas starts looking like a solution in search of a problem, with a great marketing team. I guess we could start debating the environmental merits of gas vs. coal, but that's a very convoluted argument, even before you consider the politics involved.]
posted by schmod at 8:33 AM on March 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


Every time I see/hear the name "T. Boone Pickens" I think of a hideous genetic experiment involving T-Bone Burnett, Pat Boone, and Slim Pickens gone awry. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

It's not just you. Everytime I see one of his commercials for one of his plans, I'm always surprised he does not produce either a six string guitar or a pair of silver plated six shooters.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


What do they mean $1 per gallon? The energy density of compressed natural gas is about a quarter that of typical gasoline (i.e. 10% ethanol). So do they mean $1 per gallon-of-gasoline-equivalent or per gallon? Because if it's just per gallon then that's equivalent to $4/gallon and is actually slightly worse than gasoline right now, even discounting the cost of new cars and fueling infrastructure.

At this point, as long as we're completely reworking our transportation infrastructure, it really ought to be with hybrids, electrics, and mass transit, not switching to another fossil fuel dead-end.
posted by jedicus at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


The United States does not have a decades-long supply of inexpensive, locally sourced natural gas, according to a new report commissioned by the Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit think tank that examines issues related to the economy, energy and the environment.

Hughes estimates there is only a 12-year supply of easily accessible, domestic natural gas. He said the number of producing gas wells almost doubled from 1990 to 2010, but the productivity of each well has declined nearly 50% over the same 20-year period.
REPORT: Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


You think a billionaire runs around town in a Honda Civic? Bullshit! Maybe only when he wants to brag about cheap natural gas fuel. The other times hes cruisin' in Aston Martins and Rolls Royces.
posted by amazingstill at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


And heck, $1 a gallon.

Though the energy density of LNG is about 70% of gasoline and 60% of diesel by volume. CNG is worse -- 42% of gas, 25% of diesel. Energy density by mass is actually higher -- but we don't sell these by the gram, we sell them by the liter and gallon.

Fueling time is a bit longer as well -- about five times as long, since you're dealing with compressed gas, and most compressed gas fill systems will give you about 500psi a minute, and you're looking at 3000-4000psi in a full cylinder, so 6-8 minutes of actual pumping time. This is significantly longer than gas or diesel in average cars, which run 8-10 gallons per minute. Very large tanks take longer to fill, for both CNG and liquid fuels.

The biggest advantage, though, is that CNG is far less damaging to the engine that gasoline. CNG engines can easily run for 500,000 miles with only basic maintenance, and oil change intervals are much longer.
posted by eriko at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing, methane produces about 1/4 less GHG emissions than regular gasoline combustion. Even if he's doing it for the wrong reasons, environmentally, this would be a pretty big deal.

I've always been under the impression that CH4 was a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2: Over a 100 year time-span, a given amount of methane (CH4) has approximately 23x the global warming potential of the same amount of carbon dioxide.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:50 AM on March 1, 2012


Ugh. Pickens, he of the Swift Boat Challenge. I have to think of his slimy mug every time I pass the YMCA here in downtown Dallas that bears his traitorous name. He is one of a particularly despicable brand of the megawealthy - the type who spend endless time and endless money to show what good people they are, constantly taking on causes that the average joe would have to be a cold-hearted lug to say were bad. Constantly funneling money into pet do-gooder humdums in order to distract you from the dastardly subsupervillainous plots that they've got both feet in at every single moment of every single day of every single fucking year that they're alive (and a legacy that will continue to quietly damage, devalue, and destroy long after their earthly bodies have ceased operations).

No, I can't say that I care for T. Boone Pickens.
posted by item at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


and the only consumer CNG vehicle (Honda Civic GX) only gets 28 miles per gge.

Honda's site says: 27 city/38 hwy/31 combined miles per gallon (gasoline-gallon equivalent). Not awesome but not much worse than the equivelent gas Civic (28 CITY 39 HWY (Automatic))

I've always been under the impression that CH4 was a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2: Over a 100 year time-span, a given amount of methane (CH4) has approximately 23x the global warming potential of the same amount of carbon dioxide.

That's if you vent it; the numbers are different if you burn it. Which is one of the reasons that burning compost methane is such a win.
posted by Mitheral at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, when I read the article, this seemed like a great idea. I'm glad I read the comments!
posted by verdeluz at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2012


Wait, y'all are saying CNG isn't the magic silver bullet to fuel woes in the US? Damn, time to find another silver bullet. Because a multi-front approach is way too complex, and there's got to be a new product to simply replace gasoline, right?
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


CNG cars are a mature and well understood technology and the price premium over similar gasoline cars is actually fairly small. CNG burns cleanly with very little particulate emissions. Furthermore, production of methane from renewable sources is also a well-understood technology. How fucking hateful is is it that CNN thinks the appropriate way to report on this is
"How a billionaire fills gas tank for $1 a gallon"


I've always been under the impression that CH4 was a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2: Over a 100 year time-span, a given amount of methane (CH4) has approximately 23x the global warming potential of the same amount of carbon dioxide.

That's when it has not been burned into co2 and h2o.
posted by Authorized User at 8:58 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tucked within the article (post) is a comment from the Wall St Journal, which says he ought not be seeking govt subsidies. But wait...is is still ok for the oil industry to get zillions in subsidies?
My plan: subsidies to oil industry relative to costs of fuel at the pump...gas too high, no subsidies
posted by Postroad at 9:03 AM on March 1, 2012


When Pickens started to pull away from wind energy, I heard similar arguments from a bunch of Picken's supporters - wind energy just isn't feasible without government subsidies, so it shouldn't pursued. I did ask them if they consider oil subsidies to somehow be different from wind subsidies, and their answers were generally unsatisfactory to me - generally something along the lines of Oil is an established fuel source so subsidies are targetted to encourage producers to find new sources of oil, while wind subsidies are too risky because it's not a proven technology yet, or something.
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on March 1, 2012


Methane does have a lot of advantages, even considering all of the downsides noted above.
- It's a mature technology for internal combustion and power generation. It can be done now and the technologies are fairly advanced.
- If moved by pipeline, it's a very low-risk fuel from a spills point-of-view. It has low effects on the environment and no toxicity to speak of. It's main effect on the environment is as a GHG.
- It's a very good candidate fuel for use in fuel cells, which could double or more the efficiencies of IC engines. This could make it a very good fit for future electric-based, rather than HC-centric, power and transportation needs.
- It can be produced biogenically, either from biopiles (today) or via algae and other organisms (future research needed). As such, it makes a lot of sense as a way of extracting energy from what are now waste streams from industry and agriculture. LC effects are also typically quite desirable: biopiles also have much lower water input demands than ethanol production, for example.

On the other hand, I really don't want to see more transportation of LNG by ship.
posted by bonehead at 9:15 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or we could drive smaller cars with smaller engines. Then even eight dollars a gallon wouldn't be a big deal.

I drive a 2000 new beetle, about a 15 gallon tank, on average though i only let it go between 10 and 12 gallons down. With my math i've gotten close to 40mpg at best, not bad. Gas is close to $4 a gallon here, keeps getting close and going back down. I do get a chuckle when i see damn near everyone else in my area complaining about gas prices filling up for twice as long as i take, and my parents who drive a luxury car that "needs" premium and gets a fraction of my milage.

Getting away from oil is a good idea, but his suggestions? Going to pay for my near car or conversions? How about fill up stations in my small town in the middle of nowhere? Even if i could fill up at home, won't do me much good if i have to go farther than i can get back.

How about we stop going to war, spending so damn much on the defense budget, and dedicate that to finding a safe and renewable fuel? Hell, that would solve so many problems right there. :p
posted by usagizero at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see the cost to the consumer and the environment incurred by swapping cars when we do this, "get more efficient cars stupid" thing.
Pickens is suggesting that we change the entire energy supply chain and our cars. I'm suggesting that it would be much simpler to replace our large and heavy cars with smaller gasoline cars.

I'm also not suggesting that you switch cars. I just sold my 2.8L sedan. I don't need to replace it right away, but I'd like to be able to replace it with something like the 650cc (71 MPG!) or 1L Suzuki Alto. It is disappointing to see small cars show up in the USA only with exotic and currently-impractical drivetrains like CNG or electric. I've driven the 1L Alto for a week. Loaded up with four adults and as much baggage as could fit, it still performed and handled about as well as a US-market 1.8 L Corolla.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2012


It's cheap right now. What happens when a few million cars start burning it?

I live in a cold area, and I heat my home with gas. It's not just Canadians who have doubts about what a wholesale use of methane to power vehicles would do to the price of the stuff.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:19 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been hearing a lot lately about how marvelous natural gas is and how we'll never run out. Makes you wonder.

Natural Gas is a feedstock for chemistry, used to cook and heat homes.

Already the poor and elderly are having trouble making ends meet and Congress is talking about getting rid of energy payment help for the said groups. And the plan, as posted here, is to drive up the costs of Natural Gas just so a well off man can get "$1 a gallon gas"?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Driving around in a car with a bunch of flammable liquid in the back is bad enough. I don't know if I want to have a bunch of flammable compressed gas instead.
posted by VTX at 9:31 AM on March 1, 2012


Mitheral: "Honda's site says: 27 city/38 hwy/31 combined miles per gallon (gasoline-gallon equivalent). Not awesome but not much worse than the equivelent gas Civic (28 CITY 39 HWY (Automatic))"

Weird. The EPA tells a much different story: 24 city / 28 combined / 36 highway for the 2011 model; they don't seem to have actually tested the 2012 model yet. This year's model appears to use the same engine and drivetrain as previous years', so I have no idea how they're claiming such a big improvement.

Now, mind you, those would be pretty good numbers for a conventional car. However, it's not a very compelling argument to switch over to CNG, especially given the other drawbacks.
posted by schmod at 9:42 AM on March 1, 2012


I think the arguments regarding the costs of infrastructure to support CNG fueling is interesting. Any new energy technology for cars is going to involve infrastructure issues. Some more, some less, but I think the U.S. really should be investing more in infrastructure generally (i.e. more reliable power grid, mass transit, fast internet). The thought of being able to fuel my car at home is a huge plus, and something I would be willing to invest in (be it CNG at $2,000 or electric).

Any step away from gasoline-dependency is a good one, even if it is from the likes of T. Boone Pickens. If the tech isn't there yet, we need to work on getting it there instead of complaining that it's worthless because it's not where it needs to be right now.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:53 AM on March 1, 2012


So I'm going to pay off my current car, then keep it and buy/lease an electric for daily use, with the current car as a backup for long trips.

Seems easy enough to me. Am I missing something that makes the CNG solution better?
posted by davejay at 9:53 AM on March 1, 2012


He really is in it for the money. He is also buying up water rights in West Texas for his company Mesa Water to be pumped to major cities. Water from the Ogallala aquifer that is already being bled dry.

If you want to see what the future will be like in a natural gas economy, I invite you to the Barnett Shale. Open waste pits. Aquifers ruined by fracing. Land ruined by drilling and fracing. If the water isn't undrinkable, they'll suck it all dry. Fracing a well takes 1.5 to 2 million gallons of water. This happens multiple times over the life of a well. The truck traffic that destroys roads. I live in this cesspool and see it everyday. But its good for T. Boone Pickens and the mineral rights owners!

Shale gas is a terrible idea.
posted by narcoleptic at 9:59 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, natural gas can't possibly be a bad choice if you consider the whole process it goes through to end up at a pipe at your house.

As demand goes up, the price can't possibly go up.

How do these guys become billionaires in the first place? Because it ain't a result of hard work and smarts.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:01 AM on March 1, 2012


Plus, it has the added benefit of making our country less willing to invade middle east countries to protect our energy interests.

The United States doesn't import much of its oil from the Middle East anyway. The strategic importance of Middle Eastern oil is that the Chinese get most of their oil from there.
posted by atrazine at 10:05 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I drove an International 3/4t pickup for many years. Pulled my 4-horse trailer with it. It had a dual gasoline/propane set up, with a 2-gallon gasoline tank (for emergancies), and a 90-gallon propane tank. After a few years, I jettisoned the gasoline tank when I put a flatbed on the truck.

Upside of this: somewhat cheaper fuel; the oil never got dirty; no carbon deposit in the engine. (I changed the bearings at 200,000 miles, and although worn, they looked new. The valves never had carbon deposits.)

The problem I had was that, even though many service stations have propane, they all put a road tax on that which is used to power vehicles. My fifth-wheel trailer had a couple of small propane tanks that ran the reefer and stove, and they cost maybe half the per gallon price to fill, compared to the tank on the back of the propane-powered truck. I could fill a 90-gallon propane tank in about ten minutes, comparable to the same time it took to fill two 35-gallon saddle tanks with gasoline on my other truck.

I never thought about using the natural gas hook up to fill the pickup, mostly because we didn't have natural gas at our home in the mountains. I live in the city now, and I guess it seems like a good idea. I sold the International a few years ago when I got rid of all the horses and mules. It's still on the road.

T-Boone rocks, except when he thinks he's being cute.
posted by mule98J at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


TBP's original Pickens Plan was to have pretty much 1MW of gas back up 1MW of wind, so it was really a thinly disguised gas play with lots of "Look at the nice spinny things" to make it look green. In reality, with improved forecasting and some minor grid work, you can have 1MW of gas back up ~3MW of wind — so his gas play suddenly got 1/3 the size, as did his enthusiasm.
posted by scruss at 10:31 AM on March 1, 2012


Blue Meanie: "I wonder why he's saying this and has been pushing natural gas for many years. I really wonder."

While I completely agree that it's in his financial interest to see wider adoption of CNG-powered vehicles, it's also in all our interest. A plug-in NG fueled hybrid would be fancy fantastic. Lower carbon dioxide emissions, relatively inexpensive fuel, and best of all we're no longer supporting the totalitarian regimes that supply us with much of our oil.

Also, one nice thing about being in Oklahoma is that I'd have zero trouble refueling a CNG-powered car just about anywhere in the state. There aren't a lot of regular gas stations that also have CNG presently, though there are a few, but several of our natural gas suppliers operate public refueling points.

I think we could, within a year or two at most, have a reasonable number of CNG fueling stations most everywhere in the country if we tell the NG suppliers to get on the stick. There's very little cost for them to set up a few pumps supplied by their existing pipelines, so even if use is low they're likely to break even. The reason they do it here is that the incremental cost is minimal since they have to install the pumps for their increasingly CNG-powered fleet regardless.
posted by wierdo at 10:38 AM on March 1, 2012


Seriously, you'd think someone worth over a billion dollars could pull off some kind of work-from-home arrangement. Even if it means a cut in salary.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:47 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing, methane produces about 1/4 less GHG emissions than regular gasoline combustion.
...
And in California, you get a sticker that lets you drive in the commuter lanes even if you are driving alone

I note that the CA HOV sticker program applies to all manner of CNG vehicles, including, say, the CNG version of the Lincoln Navigator, a car that gets 10-14MPG in real world use. Assuming the fuel efficiency of the CNG version is similar, that 25% doesn't buy you nearly enough to drop your CO2 emissions even into the range of an ordinary gasoline-powered midrange sedan. It'd be an embarrassment to see one of these running passengerless in the HOV lane.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:10 AM on March 1, 2012


Billionaire-hating aside, I don't know what's the big deal. Natural-gas powered cars are quite common in Brazil (mainly taxis, which tend to stay within densely populated areas and where autonomy is not an issue). It can also share the same infrastructure with gas and refueling it doesn't take forever like with electric cars.

I agree - we need to get our money out of the Middle East. The immediately available only response to foreign hydrocarbons is domestic hydrocarbons. There's no alternative in the short term.

And so what if Pickens has skin in this game? The fact some people can make money out of it at least give the initiatives a chance to be successful, contrary to solar and wind, for which there's no business case without massive government subsidies.
posted by falameufilho at 11:35 AM on March 1, 2012


Does natural gas come without the same subsidies that petroleum enjoys?
posted by maxwelton at 11:52 AM on March 1, 2012


Nice of them to add the meaningless sexist throwaway quote at the end.

Look, there's nothing wrong with broads driving big cars.

"You can't tell 'em I'll give you $50 when the world market is $100. It just doesn't work that way."

I'm no financial genius, but I'm pretty sure it does work that way.
Bidding. Negotiation. Commodity trading. All that.

Isn't it weird though, almost everywhere else in the world you haggle for goods at some level with the merchant to negotiate the market price ('cos you're in, y'know, a market). In the U.S., no. The molded plastic item at Wal-Mart is $8.99 and there's no one in the store who can change that.

Pickens, an 83-year-old trained geologist


You know who else was a trained geologist?

Billionaire-hating aside

No, I think that stays on the table.

I don't know what's the big deal. Natural-gas powered cars are quite common
I agree. There's a lot to be said for natural gas powered vehicles. And just having the availability as an energy source for transportation adds to the redundancy of the system which means it's less vulnerable to failure.

We really need to get it together in the U.S. and have a sort of multiple source, modular energy infrastructure that we can depend on and that can adapt.
And we should make the switch now.
We would need a lot of technology education which would be a great boost to our schools and we would need a lot of labor to do the work.

Gosh, if only people were looking for jobs...
posted by Smedleyman at 12:45 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Driving around in a car with a bunch of flammable liquid in the back is bad enough. I don't know if I want to have a bunch of flammable compressed gas instead.

CNG and LPG tanks are way tougher than gasoline tanks (which are pretty well all plastic now a days).
posted by Mitheral at 1:47 PM on March 1, 2012


It can also share the same infrastructure with gas

I am not a petroleum engineer, but my impression is that it's not accurate to say that natural gas can share infrastructure with regular gasoline.

One big question in the petroleum industry, I kid you not: Is there a cost-effective way to convert natural gas to gasoline? (or something similar which is liquid at higher temperatures) Because transporting natural gas is harder. Dispensing natural gas is harder.

Again, I'm not saying that we shouldn't invest in natural gas - I just think like a lot of people that it needs to be one prong of a multi-pronged effort. Pickens is, many times, more of a distraction than an ally.
posted by muddgirl at 3:49 PM on March 1, 2012



I drive a 2000 new beetle, about a 15 gallon tank, on average though i only let it go between 10 and 12 gallons down. With my math i've gotten close to 40mpg at best, not bad.


I drive around (in Southern California) on a 650 cc ninja motorcycle. I get 40-50 mpg. Sometimes a little less if I am misbehaving a little more. It has ridiculous amounts of acceleration and handles like a sports car. I can legally drive in HOV lanes and when traffic is not moving I can legally split lanes as long as my differential in speed is less than I think about 20 miles per hour (not totally sure on the speed differential). Great for the city and an area that doesn't have a whole lot of bad weather. A removable gear rack on the back of my bike and I can go by groceries no problem.

Safety wise...well not so much. Quick reflexes required.
posted by dibblda at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Australia has long experience with using natural gas for cars.

The gist of it is, using the latest gas systems (LPI, I'll explain later) developed by GM (Holden) and Ford, you get equal or greater performance out of the same engine but save 40% on your monthly fuel costs. I have many friends who swear by it, and basically all taxis use it.

The latest technology is quite interesting, it's quite funny that Wikipedia doesn't know very much about it yet so I can't link you - the description on Wikipedia is vague, and claims the technology is in its infancy - but the basic summary of it is, most systems in use nowadays are either carburetor mixers or vapor phase injectors.... the newest system developed in the last year is Liquid Phase Injection which delivers the fuel directly to the engine in liquid form via a fuel rail.

This yields something like a 25% power and 15% efficiency gain over existing vapor phase injectors... it's a quantum leap forward. I am given to understand that most of these gains are thermodynamic in nature (extremely cold fuel/air mixture yields higher air density, naturally mimicking the effects of turbocharging, also greater temperature and hence expansion differential in input/output). This is also related to why the system has taken so long to be developed - freezing fuel rails and circulation systems.

So if you think the current autogas / LPG / CNG cars you see on the road are "good" wait till you see the liquid injection ones... it will be very compelling for people to make the switch.

Driving around in a car with a bunch of flammable liquid in the back is bad enough. I don't know if I want to have a bunch of flammable compressed gas instead.

The compressed gas cylinder is probably the strongest and most solid part of your car. Your chance of rupturing a normal petrol tank (made of plastic) is much much higher. Also, if you somehow spring a leak in an accident, the gas will escape into the atmosphere.... instead of having petrol pooling under the car, which is a greater hazard.
posted by xdvesper at 4:49 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, it's $1.00/gallon now, but it will be up to $4.75 by this summer.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2012


Honda's site says: 27 city/38 hwy/31 combined miles per gallon (gasoline-gallon equivalent).

Note that gallon-gas equivalent is the amount of CNG needed to have the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. So it shouldn't be surprising that you get very similar mileage between a Civic DX and a Civic GX -- the energy unit (in this case, the pg of mpg) has been set the same.

For the record, 1GGE of CNG is 5.56 pounds of CNG. I have heard of pumps selling CNG in GGEs (in which case, you can compare the prices directly) and in pounds (in which case, you need multiply the cost per pound by 5.56 to compare to the cost per gas in gallons.) I think the standard is becoming GGE.
posted by eriko at 5:24 PM on March 1, 2012


muddgirl: "I am not a petroleum engineer, but my impression is that it's not accurate to say that natural gas can share infrastructure with regular gasoline."

It was a simplistic way of saying that it's stored in the same facilities as gas and cars are fueled in the same gas stations.Yes, the end-to-end infrastructure is probably quite different (I imagine).
posted by falameufilho at 5:39 PM on March 1, 2012


How do these guys become billionaires in the first place? Because it ain't a result of hard work and smarts.

They are Sociopaths.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:58 PM on March 1, 2012


From all the statements about infrastructure and affect on gas prices, you'd think this was some exotic futuristic technology like hydrogen or 100% ethonol.

Many cities and utilities use CNG for their entire fleet including buses. In places where natural gas prices are cheaper, like Utah and Oklahoma, lots of people drive CNG cars and there are a reasonable number of filling stations. The cars are quite popular in other countries such as Argentina and Brazil. Argentina has almost 2 million CNG cars (almost half of all cars!) Somehow the country has managed not to collapse under the 'burden' of supplying the infrastructure for these cars.

I'm sure T Boone Pickens is asking for tax credits, subsidies, and handouts and we can debate whether or not this is the right approach. Certainly incentives have worked in Utah and Oklahoma. A more libertarian approach is to just reduce the oil and coal tax credits and subsidies. Oil prices will rise and people will just start buying other types of cars (or take more public transportation, or ride their bikes, or whatever). That money not spent can go in our pockets. But realistically, the incumbent industries pay the politicians, so that will never happen.
posted by eye of newt at 9:02 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Australia has long experience with using natural gas for cars.

No. Australia has a fairly common Liquid Petroleum Gas (propane - like you use with a BBQ) fuel option. I use it in my car and it is awesome. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is methane, the stuff that powers a gas oven or hot water heater. The technology is different.
CNG is used to power quite a lot of buses around Sydney, and I understand it is used by some trucks. It is very uncommon in private passenger vehicles. I saw a Volvo passenger car the other day with a CNG label, and it was the first private CNG powered vehicle I had ever seen in the metal.
LPG is produced a byproduct of oil refining. Methane/natural gas occurs independently in natural deposits, as well as alongside other hydrocarbons (it is the stuff burning the flame flare above an oil rig) and it the gas in CSG (Coal seam Gas). It is comparatively plentiful, against oil, especially in Australia where most of our hydrocarbons are outside the conditions needed for liquid oil (yielding coal or gas instead).
posted by bystander at 2:48 AM on March 2, 2012


Just found this. We have 11 years of natural gas left. If the proven reserves enter production, then we have 23 years left. At current consumption rates. By the time we get all this infrastructure in place, it'll be time for the supply to collapse. Its another stop-gap measure.
posted by narcoleptic at 7:19 AM on March 2, 2012


Many cities and utilities use CNG for their entire fleet including buses.

What percentage of vehicles on the road in any major city are city vehicles?

Somehow the country has managed not to collapse under the 'burden' of supplying the infrastructure for these cars.

I think you're missing the point. Pickens was a huge supporter of wind energy until he faced an infrastructure problem in getting that electricity to power plants. Someone who is seriously invested in alternate energy sources would stump for infrastructure improvements. Pickens just moved to something else.

He will be a huge supporter of natural gas until he discovers that, yes, there are infrastructure difficulties which will make it difficult to increase from the current number of fueling stations to anything close to saturation. From what I can tell, there are currently something like 20 public fueling stations in the entire state of Texas, and not many more private ones.
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 AM on March 2, 2012


narcoleptic: "Its another stop-gap measure."

23 years is short, but by itself that's not a good argument against it. All measures are stop-gap measures. We use one energy source, prices rise as supplies diminish, then we move to the next one - which are either more efficient or just made viable by the high prices.
posted by falameufilho at 12:35 PM on March 2, 2012


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