T. Boone Pickens Wants 8 Million U.S. Trucks Running on CNG

Oilman T. Boone Pickens has always been an unlikely environmentalist. He's made a lot of money over the past few decades selling hydrocarbons (but before you assign all the blame to him, remember that in any transaction there's a seller and a buyer... and most people in the U.S. are buyers), but unlike others, it hasn't blinded him to the scientific facts of global warming. He says he wants to do something about it, and also about the "massive transfer of wealth [...] over 1 billion dollars a day" from the U.S. to the OPEC oil producing countries. At first his plan included a lot of wind power, but he explained that after natural gas prices fell from over $9 per MCF to $2.50 per MCF, which made him lost $150 million, he decided to switch gears and focus on natural gas.

He makes his case pretty clearly in the video above, so I won't repeat it all here, but the broad lines is that he'd like to start with the conversion of the fleet of heavy 18-wheel trucks in the U.S. (about 8 million of them) to compressed natural gas, and just those would reduce the use of foreign oil by about 60% and reduce CO2 emissions by an unspecified amount (see below for some info on the benefits of CNG over gas and diesel). He also has a slide that shows how natural gas can be used in combination with wind and solar, how it can replace coal, etc.. I'll let you be the judge of whether his plan is a good idea or not, but at least he should get some credit for proposing a plan; the U.S. hasn't had an energy plan in forever...

As for the benefits of CNG over gasoline, the Department of Energy has this to say:

  • Reduces carbon monoxide emissions 90%-97%
  • Reduces carbon dioxide emissions 25%
  • Reduces nitrogen oxide emissions 35%-60%
  • Potentially reduces non-methane hydrocarbon emissions 50%-75%
  • Emits fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants
  • Emits little or no particulate matter
  • Eliminates evaporative emissions

And here's the benefits over diesel, again according to the DOE:

  • Produce half the particulate matter of average diesel vehicles
  • Significantly reduce carbon monoxide emissions
  • Reduce nitrogen oxide and volatile organic hydrocarbon emissions by 50% or more
  • Potentially reduce carbon dioxide emissions 25% depending on the source of the natural gas
  • Drastically reduce toxic and carcinogenic pollutants
  • Increase methane emissions (not a benefit)

So still bad, but less so. More details here (PDF).


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