photo: Florian Boyd via flickr.
T. Boone Pickens hasn't been showing up as much in these pages since the wind power part of the Pickens Plan went south during the Great Recession, but, as Greentech Media reports, he's still pushing The Plan, even if it's just focused on natural gas vehicles at the moment.The Plan Now Rests Solely on Energy Security
What Pickens wants is the same as he always has: Conversion of the US vehicle fleet to natural gas, starting with heavy duty trucks and moving on from there.
The logic is still the same as well: The US has lots of natural gas so we won't have to get it from all those baddies overseas from places where they are pissed off at our foreign policy first and foremost, even if a culture war fronts the complaints and makes more headlines in this part of the world.
We're "awash in natural gas," Pickens says, and he wants to use HR 1835 (the Natural Gas Act) to "just get eight million trucks" converted to natural gas. Something which, let's not fool ourselves, will probably provide more financial benefits to Pickens than it will help in increasing US energy security, let alone environmental benefits of switching from diesel to natural gas.
Natural Gas Lowers Vehicles' Emissions, But Not By Much
Though Pickens likes to tout the environmental wisdom of using natural gas over petroleum, and there is some both in terms of carbon emissions and particulates, it's not nearly as great as Pickens' would have you believe.
"When burned as a transportation fuel, the 4-1 hydrogen-to-carbon ratio creates a fraction of the greenhouse gases of gasoline," Pickens wrote in this recent testimony to Congress.
That fraction? EPA data shows natural gas has 75% the emissions of gasoline. So yes, there is an improvement and not an insignificant one, but it's really enough of an improvement to be waving the green flag.
We could probably decrease emissions by that much just having more people bike to work one or two days a week. (Yes, I know the plan is for heavy duty vehicles to start, but you get the point...)
Would switching over the US vehicle fleet to natural gas be an improvement over the current situation? Probably. Though the Pickens main selling points aren't the radical changes he makes them out to be. When wind power was given equal billing alongside natural gas, it was much more so.
Pickens Plan Hardly Real Change
Want some genuine radical change? Spend as much time, money, and effort 1) seriously decreasing per capita energy demand and deploying more genuinely clean power generation for what remains, 2) rehabbing our civic infrastructure and public transportation so we don't need as many private vehicles, 3) developing the infrastructure for all electric vehicles. After all that perhaps natural gas still has a place in transport in those applications where all-electric doesn't cut it.
More on T. Boone Pickens:
Pickens Plan Putters Out - Cheap Natural Gas + Lack of Transmission Pull Pampas' Plug
The Pickens Plan and T. Boone Pickens Water Rights Grab (Video)
T. Boone Pickens on Expanded Oil Drilling: "East Coast, West Coast, ANWR, Get It All