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T. Boone, Prop 10 and the Questionable Effect of Natural Gas Cars

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The LA Times story that knocked the green halo off T. Boone Pickens’ head, with its spotlight on Pickens’ funding of California’s Prop 10, generated a lot of heated comments from readers. This morning the Wall Street Journal takes a crack at the story and points out some more interesting details.

The Prop, which would gives thousands of dollars in rebates to natural gas vehicle buyers, as well as spending on R&D, will supposedly cost California $9.8 billion over 30 years and would come from taxpayer money. The WSJ says, if the prop passes, it could lead to a million natural gas vehicles for California; if the Prop is defeated then natural gas vehicle backers will have to compete — against cleaner alternatives like electric vehicles — for the $840 million in funds under law AB 118. In a vacuum natural gas cars sound OK, but it’s hard to justify spending on dirtier-burning natural gas vehicles when those funds are directly competing with “zero emission” alternatives, like electric cars powered by a solar grid.

So, the biggest issue with choosing to fund natural gas vehicles or not is the questionable emissions benefits. Yes, there is a national security and supply issue that is answered by natural gas vehicles, but the WSJ quotes a California Energy Commission study: When natural gas replaces gasoline, greenhouse gases are reduced by just 20 to 30 percent. When natural gas is used instead of diesel in trucks, greenhouse gases are reduced just 10 to 20 percent. If diesel is almost comparable, then it makes more sense to fund that as a stop gap as that infrastructure is already in place. The article also points out that the natural gas vehicle benefits over gasoline have dropped over the past two decades as newer internal combustion engines have become cleaner and more efficient.

The WSJ says together Pickens and Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon have spent $3.7 million supporting the proposition. Previously Pickens had been isolated as the only backer of the prop. Chesapeake Energy’s claim to fame is that it’s the “third-largest overall producer of natural gas in the U.S” — so it’s not surprising that the firm would invest to get this passed. Earlier this week it also came out that Pickens is getting into natural gas vehicle development, too. Pickens and the natural gas distribution company he founded, Clean Energy Fuels, joined with the Perseus fund to invest $160 million into building a natural gas vehicle.

12 Responses to “T. Boone, Prop 10 and the Questionable Effect of Natural Gas Cars”

  1. A_Thousand_Clowns

    I am amazed at the ignorance of the first two posts. Unbelivable. Natural gas for the US is NOT controlled by the Middle East. In fact, the United States has been recently called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas'. The new shale fields in NE Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, are now acessible by the new technique of horizontal drilling. Estimates are of sufficient nat gas for US energy needs for at least a century. Natural gas cars have the performance closer to gasoline powered cars, although they are heavier. But they are nothing like the turtle-acceleration of electric cars. And the first poster says no because we should all use electric cars powered by a solar grid? Yeah, keep dreaming dude... maybe in 30 years...maybe. And then there is the toxic waste problem of heavy metals in battery construction when there are 100 billion pounds of the used batteries to dispose of. And they sayonly’ a 20% reduction in CO2? It’s more like 40%.. besides if you believe global warming is going to be catastrophic in a few years, why would you keep burning gasoline when nat gas could reduce the emissions and the electric car/solar panels are decades off????????????????

    Something is fishy. Get off gasoline, stop sending our revenue overseas, get our energy needs out of the Middle
    East, reduce CO2 emissions, and get more miles/gallon per dollar – AND we can do all right now! IF congress will act to build out the pumps for nat gas along our roadways.

  2. ramblin rose

    What none of the comments have suggested is the obvious savings of companies who have fleets of vehicles and what they have been spending on oil/diesel/gas. You all are so focused on making sure that T. Boone Pickens doesn’t make any more money, that you have forgotten how prices have gone up due to transportation costs rising. While you are sitting there waiting for the perfect solution, our country is still dependent on oil. Ultimately these capitalists are going to benefit. How about the rest of us? Are we going to get cleaner air, a reduction on oil, and a reasonably priced transportation system?

  3. NGV is the way to go. I have driven the same Honda Civic GX since 2001 and still going strong. As of today Natural Gas is only $2.18 per gallon while gasoline is at $3.59 per gallon. Plus if you get the home fueling station, the price comes down to only $1.00 gallon. It is worth it.

  4. Deep Patel — I’m sure you’ve heard it by now. Explorers and drillers are quickly turning America turning into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. We do not need to import the stuff. Converting gas burning autos to nat gas burners is a relatively simple affair, and the new fuel burns cleaner. Until we can build out the technology and infrastructure for electric transportation, nat gas seems a relatively clean bridge fuel with decades of guraranteed supply.

  5. StevenH

    Politicians are bedfellows of big money from both sides of the aisle. Pelosi is just another human who has no problem using her position to better her own economic security. She owns roughly 10,000 shares of CLNE so why not back a stopgap prop that makes her look like she’s helping CA. It’s not like we havn’t been hosed before.

    Yes, I live in LA and have been through the Gray Davis crap, I’ve been brutalized by the energy fiasco, the insurance scandals and whatever else has been shoved down our throats as Calee-fornians. This reeks of the GOB Network and insider scandal.

    Same old same old, IMHO

  6. Howard Smith

    When all is said an done, no ome is looking out for us. They only look to where their next $$$ are coming form. Before voting on anything look into who’s hands the money is going, then and only then do you know why someone whats a prop passed.

  7. Right on! the distributed renewable energy model in which everyone has electric cars that they are powering from the solar / wind powered homes and businesses make most sense. Why is t-boone pushing so aggressively for natural gas!?! How does it help America become energy independent when the natural gas reserves are controlled by the middle east?

    Same old oil tycoons are trying to lead the general populace down the wrong path once again unfortunately.

  8. bob bobberson

    I also just read an article in the WSJ on how people were ditching fuel oil furnaces for nat gas because of prices. If we go CNG then people will ditch Nat-gas for wood stoves. CNG cars arn’t that much more impressive than electric cars to warrant all the $$. Plus the biggest thing is that nat-gas supplies are going to run out a few more years after oil runs dry. Same problem in the long run!

    Go electric and where you get the power is irrelevant. You can have a mouse in a wheel powering your electric car (it would take alot of mice)

    I would like the idea though of a hybrid electric/nat-gas car. It could be just the trick for getting off of oil, getting cleaner, and the range.