My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pickens is wrong....

His much-heralded energy plan misses the mark...
So hats off to Mr. Pickens. That said, the plan he is advancing for dealing with the crisis — build windmills to release natural gas from electricity generation so it can be used to power compressed natural gas (CNG)-driven cars, displacing gasoline in the process — is technically flawed and needs to be revised.

While a net exporter twenty years ago, the United States today imports about 18% of its natural gas. So without a very substantial change in our electric power generation portfolio, shifting from gasoline to natural gas would just shift us from one imported fuel to another. Wind power is an improbable candidate for achieving such a shift. Simply to replace the 18% of our natural gas we currently import would require multiplying the nation’s current total wind power tenfold; to free up enough domestic natural gas to replace half our gasoline would require a thirty-fold wind power increase. The feasibility of doing this is very doubtful, not merely because of the size of the project but because wind power is intrinsically unreliable. When the wind speed drops in half, power output drops by a factor of eight, so wind simply cannot provide the baseload power. Rather, it can only be used as an as-available auxiliary to reduce somewhat the net overall fuel consumption of a fossil-fuel-driven baseload system that must have — and frequently run at — full power capacity to meet the needs of its customers. Replacing natural gas power generators with nuclear or coal-fired systems would be possible in principle, as both of these can provide reliable baseload power, but would take many years and entail many other problems.

Furthermore, shifting to natural gas as a critical transportation resource is unwise for fundamental logistical reasons. The United States is currently using natural gas at a rate of 27 trillion cubic feet per year. The total known reserves of natural gas in all of North America are 274 trillion cubic feet. And while new reserves are always being discovered, launching a heroic effort to shift our transportation system to critical dependence upon a fuel whose known domestic reserves amount to little more than ten years’ supply is simply not prudent.

Finally, compressed natural gas is an inferior technology for vehicle fuel. This is so because it is a gas, not a liquid, and so must be stored in heavy high-pressure tanks. A standard steel K-bottle compressed gas cylinder, which weighs about 133 lbs, can only store enough natural gas to match the energy content of two gallons of gasoline. So CNG cars are either limited to short range, or must carry massive tank systems that increase their cost and reduce their mileage. Lighter graphite composite tanks are possible, but these are very expensive and unsafe in the event of a crash, as they are susceptible to breakage followed by gas release and explosion.


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