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Two Proposals in US Congress to Increase Use of Natural Gas as Transportation Fuel

Two members of the US Congress, Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL-5) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) separately announced legislative initiatives this past week to increase the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. Currently, natural gas costs about half of the price of gasoline and produces approximately one-third less emissions.

Rep. Emanuel plans to introduce legislation that will compel automakers to make 10% of their fleet vehicles run on natural gas by the year 2018. Emanuel’s proposal also includes incentives and tax credits that will result in the addition of natural gas pumps at 20,000 fueling stations across the country.

Emanuel’s bill also:

  • Offers a $90,000 tax credit to encourage gas station owners to install natural gas fuel pumps.

  • Provides $2.6 billion in bonding authority to states to provide no or low-interest loans to service stations to install natural gas pumps.

  • Requires the gas stations owned by the major oil companies to install at least one natural gas pump in each station by 2018.

  • Includes tax credits for drivers who convert their cars to allow them to run on natural gas and for those Americans who own home “Phill” natural gas fueling units.

Senator Inhofe introduced the Drive America on Natural Gas Act (S.3281) to promote the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) vehicles without any mandated targets.

Inhofe’s Drive America on Natural Gas Act:

  • Expands the definition in the Renewable Fuels Standard to allow the use of CNG and LNG fuels to meet the mandates.

  • Broadens the Alternative Vehicle Tax Credit to include bi-fuel vehicles. Currently only vehicles which solely run on natural gas qualify for this credit.

  • Establishes a Natural Gas Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration program. The program will assist manufacturers in emissions certification, will develop and improve nationally recognized safety codes and standards, will examine and improve the reliability and efficiency of natural gas fueling station infrastructure, and will study the use of natural gas engines in hybrid vehicles. Additionally, it requires the Department of Energy and the EPA to coordinate with the private sector to carry out the program.

  • Directs the EPA to establish a state demonstration program to streamline the regulations and certifications currently required for the conversion of vehicles to natural gas.

Earlier in July, Senator Inhofe had praised T. Boone Pickens plan to use wind-generated power to displace natural gas used in power generation, allowing it to be applied to the transportation sector.

Comments

Kermit

There are a few problems with this. First California, the New England states, and Florida have vastly increased the use of gas for power generation rather than have coal or nuclear power. Second the same offshore drilling restrictions on oil also apply to natural gas, particularly around these states. Third far fewer homes have natural gas than have electrical outlets.
The weakness with T. Boones plan is that the states that need wind generated electricity don't have enough onshore wind and the NIMBY's (Ted Kennedy and the Nantucket wind farm come to mind)won't allow offshore windmills. The sparsely populated states of the great plains have plenty of wind but getting new DC high voltage transmission lines to the user states would be an eminent domain nightmare.

John Baldwin

In Germany this year, VW are bringing out a new CNG Passat:

- <130 g/km
- Supercharger and turbocharger
- 420 km range on CNG, almost same on petrol on top
- 0 to 60 mph in 9.7 secs
- 150 bhp

This is the new benchmark for CNG Vehicles.

Maybe the next stage for the Passat NGT will be to add stop-start feature + regenerative braking etc……maybe that can get to around 100 g/km? This would be fantastic for a vehicle of this size and quality.

VW can expect to sell >50,000 per anum in Germany were there are 800 CNG filling stations, built in last 5 years.

If VW can make a Passat NGT at something like that CO2/km, it does not leave amuch space for EVs and Hydrogen fuel cells does it? The Passat NGT will be the new benchmark for road transport, can also be carbon neutral if it runs on biomethane.

Natural gas is a lot cheaper than oil, so to move vehicles makes sense to have the CO2 saving and have the financial benefit too.

John Taylor

Senator Inhofe & Representative Rahm Emanuel are republicans. Their proposal is designed to keep the USA on fossil fuels as long as possible, while closing off all alternatives. Representative Rahm Emanuel is also interested in opening the Arctic wildlife reserve to oil production.

I hope Congress listens to Al Gore and decides to go off carbon based fuels altogether rather than just shifting how the fuels are used.

jrojai

This is going in the WRONG DIRECTION. This bill will cause natural gas prices to rise even more (just like the legislation to use corn for ethanol - and look what happened to food prices).
Since natural gas is used at many power plants for electricity and used in homes for heating and cooking, this will AGAIN hit the consumer on several fronts with increasing energy costs. Even with clean burning technology coming in the future, it is not as clean as electric vehicles and advanced generation plug in hybrid vehicles that will start to be on the market in two years.

How long will it take before Congressmen and women stop taking steps that actually hurt the US economy?
This only helps the Natural Gas Producers, and ultimately we will have to import more natural gas from Russia to keep up with demand. How much of American assets to we want to give to foreign countries. Do we want more foreign companies to buy ours?

If this moves forward, the US Auto Industry most certainly start to go backrupt because they will spend their limited resources focussing on losing technology.

JimR

JohnT: Rahm Emanual is not Republican, he worked in the Clinton Admin.

Gerald Shields, Seattle, WA

T. Boone Pickens has been busy lately.

HC

Yes, this is going to the wrong direction, not just the 1st time. We have gone to that route before whenever there is oil crisis and when the oil price surges. Natural gas has been proven in the past that it is not an ultimate solution, as a transport fuel.
I admire the T. Boone Pickens plan. There is no doubt we need to increase use wind-generated power, however it is not technically correct to displace natural gas used in power generation, allowing it to be applied to the transportation sector. Mr. Pickens has his personal interest in Clean Energy, a company that provides LNG to the transport sector.
We should spend our resource in expanding the electricity grid and promote the use of EV and PHEV.

John Taylor

@ Jim R.
I stand corrected. Rep. in Rahm Emanual's main page stands for Representative, not Republican.

(Democrats should toss this one out).

ai_vin

T. Boone Pickens plan is to use wind-generated power to displace the natural gas used to generate 22% of US power, and apply it to the transportation sector - which would displace 38% of imported oil.

I think he's being both too conservative and too optimistic; Too optimistic because the companies that run those NG power plants have already paid good money to build them and will not want to shut them down.

Too conservative because I think wind power can replace more than 22% of US power generation - see; http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf
and more than 38% of imported oil can be displaced.

In addition to the NG generating electricity you have NG heating many of your homes, by switching to solar heating this NG can also be used in cars. Plus NG stockpiles can be extended by blending in up to 30% hydrogen without needing costly pure hydrogen systems, see; http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/12/direct-injectio.html

gary

Fuel Maker's Phill video...
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/944375/save_cash_at_the_pump/

Jim

The difference with natural gas (compared with oil or even ethanol) is that it can be produced fairly cheaply from biomass resources. So cattle farms, pig farms, and lawn debris can all be used to produce methane, which is the primary component of natural gas.

Some sewage processing systems are even going with anaerobic digestion, which produces methane as a by-product.

So vehicles that can run on renewable methane or NG is not a bad idea. That should probably also be PHEVs as well, and have a small gasoline tank to allow for interaction with the vast extant gasoline infrastructure, but who listens to me....?

sjc

We can gasify corn stover, wheat straw, rice straw as well as other agriculture and forestry biomass to synthesize methane cost effectively. It goes into the same pipes as NG right to your homes and filling stations. No tankers, refineries nor delivery trucks required. With ANG we can get more range in smaller and less expensive tanks at lower pressures. WIth high octane, we can run small high compression turbo hybrids for good performance and great mileage. This can and should be done as soon as possible.

Chris

I would like to see vehicles run on salt water. The earth is 95% of it and when Global Warming melts all that ice at the poles we're going to need a place to put all that extra water before it floods our coastal cities.

dan

If this was really a better idea it wouldn't need "...legislation that will compel automakers...", they'd do it themselves.

I believe Honda was marketing CNG Civics w/ home refueling gizmos, not sure if they still do. Did they require a U.S. federal law to force them to do this?

Mr. T should talk this up to his CEO buddies and let capitalism/"the marketplace" take its course instead of relying on Congress.

It's been so long since I've heard of a project that was compelled by law turning out to be a good idea, (e.g. E85) that I'd be ecstatic if he was able to convince an automaker to try it on their own dime. Unfortunately, the US car builders have been making wrong decisions for so long none seem to have many dimes leftover.

Does anyone know if GM's range-extended electric car project has a federal law propping it up? I don't recall hearing of a specific one. That's what's made it more interesting to me. Oh, I'm pretty sure GM got pile$ of federal $ub$idie$ (Partnership for New Generation Vehicles, FreedomCar), guess I'd count those.

Sulleny

"I hope Congress listens to Al Gore and decides to go off carbon based fuels altogether rather than just shifting how the fuels are used."

Though beating a dead horse - it's time to move beyond shamed messenger Gore to new vision. His colossal charade with AGW has cost the green movement a large portion of what credibility it had.

CNG can be positioned as just another flex-fuel option for serial & parallel hybrids. The danger lies in allowing coal interests to co-opt NG production - which will keep us on a fossil energy diet for another hundred years. It would be better to deal with the residual waste from new generation nukes than to re-capitalize big oil with an CNG/ICE transport sector.

ejj

This is a great idea. I'm sure there are plenty of people across America whose homes are already hooked up to natural gas, who'd love to get CNG or LNG cars if they knew they could fill them up at gas stations across the country also. If there was a CNG/LNG Hybrid System allowing for crazy gas mileage, that would be a hot selling vehicle.

Chris Brown

I love how upset the hybrid ev crowd gets when CNG comes up....

It is a great fuel and all the techlogic issues have been solved. If there is a supply problem I have not heard of it - sounds like Canada and Mexico, plus the US south have us covered. The only reason we import any (none from Russian by the way) is local market issues and corprate greed.

How about we don't bash other clean fuels on this board?

Or as an alternative we could fight amoungst ourselves until it is too late to solve the problem.

Axil

Sulleny …hold on now …don’t let the wisdom of Al Gore be lost by personal dislike or envy. Gore says that natural gas is a possible transition fuel but it makes sense to transition the US transportation fleet one only. The optimal transportation fuel is electricity and that electricity must originate from new non-fossil technology.


So says the leader, so let it be done.

The wisdom emanates not from Al but from others far better qualified. Al's day as green messenger has ended primarily due to his oversell of AGW. So, all the green enhtusiasts here (I'm one also) should grock to the idea that

Sulleny

The wisdom emanates not from Al, but from others far better qualified to provide energy direction. That CNG becomes another transitional fuel, like biodiesel and E85 is great. Be aware however that CNG is a staple of coalbed methane producers (like BP and Shell) who are carving up pristine wilderness to drill wells (e.g. Flathead River Valley in BC, Canada).

Do not be fooled (again) by clever oil interests intent on suckling your favorite ICE on CNG. While it is cleaner than most fossils, it is NOT renewable (except for low percentage biomass) and will predominately come from big oil drillers.

Again, it would be a better trade to build new generation nukes and handle the waste issues than to rush down another fossil fuel road to ruin.

Oh, yeah, I'm envious of Al's good fortune true. But not the bumbling legacy he'll leave behind. I also recognize that without the ridiculous AGW claims - we might not be as far along as we are. Credit due.

Gerald Shields, Seattle, WA

Not that I endorse T. Boone Pickens Plan, but in response to Kermit's comment, I suspect the bulk of these wind farms would be placed in some of the Midwestern states (Texas ,Oklahoma ,Kansas , Nebraska ,North and South Dakota)where there is the highest concentrations of wind in the US and there are already some wind farms in these states. Moreover, I doubt there would be NIMBY protests in those states since the populations in those states are sparse. For the record, Pickens doesn’t believe that plan is a permanent solution. Rather, he’s marketing this as a “bridge” solution to either us using electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars whatever we prefer. Also, we would be eliminating our dependence on foreign oil which is causing some of the economic problems that we have.

Axil

In days long past, when war was a personal thing, fought with sword, mace, and shield, a general earned respect from the legions through long years of heroic service, by keeping the faith, ,steadfast and unwavering, an ideal to the new recruit, an true friend and loyal to the seasoned warrior.

In this ancient sense of the fight, Al Gore is the leader of environmentalism.

Kermit

Well leaving aside exactly who I work for the moment, I deal frequently with eminent domain cases. Even for the most needed projects favored by the public you have about 8 out of 40 property owners that are going to drag you through every step of the legal process including court, fair compensation offer or not. My concern also would primarily be with the property owners near the "user" states. Also why should the public spring for a 1500 mile power line when the same power could be generated by offshore wind turbines far closer to the point of need. It seems like most states want to ride in the wagon and leave just a few of us to push it.

MeanandGreen

You can also make biogas with thermal gasification of MSW, forest waste, fuel crops, etc. and the biosyngas can be reformed, cleaned and put into vehicles or the pipeline system. I think if you ran a "wells to wheel" analysis of CO2 emissions, total energy efficiency, and incremental capital cost per passenger mile, a NGV with a high compression turbocharged engine, running on compressed biogas, and utilizing regenerative braking would leave a all other alternative fuel vehicles in the dust. In addition, CNG and LNG can replace both gasolene and diesel.

Axil

Even for the most needed projects favored by the public you have about 8 out of 40 property owners that are going to drag you through every step of the legal process including court, fair compensation offer or not.

I hope they put in HVDC lines underground that will avoid the pubic fear of the big HVAC tower power line.

It might be worth the extra cost to avoid the usual 15 % project cost for law suites. It will also fit into the game plan of Al’s smart grid thinking. At 4.5 billion, that’s 700 million for law suites. HVDC worth it? Maybe.

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