July 08, 2008
T. Boone Pickens: Wind For Electricity And Natural Gas For Cars

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens proposes to use wind power to replace natural gas for electric generation and then use the natural gas to replace oil in cars.

A 2005 Stanford University study found that there is enough wind power worldwide to satisfy global demand 7 times over — even if only 20% of wind power could be captured.

Building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20% of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.

That's a lot of money, but it's a one-time cost. And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it's a bargain.

Natural gas vehicles are less convenient (shorter range and less trunk space) than regular cars. But the fuel costs are substantially lower. You could implement part of Boone's plan by getting a natural gas powered car.

Boone is already putting his money ($2 billion through Mesa Power with a potential total cost of $12 billion by 2014) where his mouth is with a gigantic wind farm project in Texas. However, the US government is also contributing through a tax credit per kwh produced.

When a large wind power facility was built outside of town, Sweetwater experienced a revival. New economic opportunity brought the town back to life and the population has grown back up to 12,000.

In the Texas panhandle, just north of Sweetwater, is the town of Pampa, where T. Boone Pickens' Mesa Power is currently building the largest wind farm in the world.

At 4,000 megawatts — the equivalent combined output of four large coal-fire plants — the production of the completed Pampa facility will double the wind energy output of the United States.

If all of the natural gas used in electric generation was shifted to powering cars US oil imports would drop by more than a third. This would reduce the huge US trade deficit and partially shield the US economy from rising oil costs.

We currently use natural gas to produce 22% of our electricity. Harnessing the power of wind to generate electricity will give us the flexibility to shift natural gas away from electricity generation and put it to use as a transportation fuel — reducing our dependence on foreign oil by more than one-third.

How much sense this makes depends on where you think oil prices and oil supplies are going. I think we are within a few years of world Peak Oil. So I see a lot of merit to Boone's proposal.

On the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog Keith Johnson points to a claim that the lack of sufficient quantities of long distance electric power transmission lines serve as the biggest obstacle to much larger growth of wind power farms.

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources tackled the transmission problem—that is, how to get electricity from the remote places it’s usually generated to the built-up places it’s used. The U.S. Department of Energy last month said lack of transmission is the biggest obstacle to making wind power a major source of electricity in the U.S.

The transmission lines are needed for two reasons. First off, each area has uneven amounts of wind. Distant areas tend not to have slow wind periods at the same time. So long distance transmission lines with sufficiently fancy switching mechanisms could keep the power flowing from wherever it is blowing hardest to the areas where the wind is weak. Plus, the US southeast as generally weak winds - except offshore where deep water wind tower costs mean much higher wind electric costs. So the US southeast would need lots of transmission lines flowing in from the plains states which have the most wind in the lower 48 states.

In the comments of Johnson's post Michael Goggin of the American Wind Energy Association says that the current regulatory structure serves as a disincentive against the construction of sufficient transmission lines.

Rather, the problem is getting the correct policies in place so that these benefits are properly internalized by the firm making the transmission investment decision. The benefits of transmission investment tend to accrue to consumers spread over large multi-state regions, but currently these out-of-state benefits are largely ignored because most transmission planning and cost allocation decisions are made at the state level. Once the federal and state governments are able to work together to implement regional transmission planning and cost allocation policies that fully account for the societal benefits of new transmission, investors will happily step up to pay for the new lines.

I suspect that Boone's biggest motivation in setting up an organization to promote his proposal is to work for policy changes in the US Congress that will change the regulatory environment to one where the capital markets will supply the large sums of money needed to build up electric transmission infrastructure that will enable huge growth of wind power.

A couple of weeks ago I was digging up information about natural gas vehicles for a high mileage friend. Looking at a map of Compressed Natural Gas refueling station prices in the United States (scroll around in it) I was amazed that the price in Utah is about a third to a quarter of the cost in California. Oklahoma also has very low natural gas prices. If you live in Utah or Oklahoma and have long commutes then take a hard look at natural gas vehicles. Honda sells the Civic CNG. But I've come across claims of several month long waiting lists. Another alternative: CNG Conversion is available for the 2008 Ford Focus and several other models.

Boone's plan isn't going to work unless a lot of people decide on their own that a natural gas vehicle makes economic sense. When I look at the CNG price map and see how cheap CNG is in Utah and Oklahoma I think that CNG vehicles ought to take off in these states in order for CNG to have a chance at the national level. Maybe we've just needed the really high cost of gasoline to make CNG viable. Time will tell.

Update: I question the extent to which wind power can displace natural gas electric power. First off, natural gas gets used a lot for peaking power. Natural gas turbines can get spun up pretty quickly to respond to spikes in electric demand. Well, wind power certainly can't do that. Second, all those existing natural gas power plant operators are going to argue that Congress (i.e. taxpayers) should not subsidize construction of a big electric transmission line system or the installation of natural gas refilling stations. Still, if the Pickens Plan just shines more light on CNG vehicles it will probably give a big boost to CNG vehicle sales - especially in parts of the United States (and southern Canada) where natural gas is cheap.

Update II: I think the move toward CNG cars should come before a big build-up of electric transmission lines. Natural gas is already substantially cheaper than gasoline for powering cars. If this is going to work it ought to be possible to ramp up CNG cars now given some incentives for the shift.

Update III: Pickens wants some government incentives for the move to CNG cars. He argues the needed incentives are small compared to some of the incentives going into other forms of energy.

Washington, Pickens adds, can encourage the move to natural-gas-powered vehicles by providing modest economic incentives for fuel retailers to invest in CNG pumps at their stations, for automakers to build CNG-powered cars and for individuals to convert their existing vehicles to CNG use. And it should continue to provide tax incentives for another 10 years to encourage wind energy's rapid development as part of an overall plan to wean the nation from foreign oil, he says.

"It certainly would be cheaper than what they're doing already for nuclear," Pickens adds. But he's also in favor of developing more nuclear energy, and every form of alternative energy to reduce oil imports. "Try everything. Do everything. Nuclear. Biomass. Coal. Solar. You name it. I support them all," he says. "But there's only one energy source that can dramatically reduce the amount of oil we have to import each year, and that's (natural) gas."

A large electric transmission system combined with dynamic pricing would allow wind to provide a much larger portion of all electric power. This would come at the expense of both natural gas and coal electric. But then more natural gas and coal would be available for transportation. Plus, more coal would be available for export to help pay for the import of oil.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 July 08 08:22 PM  Energy Wind


Comments
James Bowery said at July 9, 2008 12:35 AM:

Reading Deffeyes, there is evidence methane has peaked as well as crude oil. The only hope is methane hydrate. There, too, evidence is coming in off the Oregon coast that these deposits may be much smaller than originally estimated -- not to mention that the oil companies have known about the methane hydrates for a long time and haven't figured out how to extract the methane economically.

Now, if someone were able to figure out how to turn capture the methane evolving from all those agricultural run-off algae blooms...

Wolf-Dog said at July 9, 2008 1:39 AM:

Also, there is some continuing work on improved catalysts for the Fischer-Tropsch process that is used to convert natural gas, coal, or biomass, to liquid fuels. So far the complaint against the Fischer-Tropsch method was that it is too expensive, but this might be changing.

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/07/oxford-catalyst.html#more

K said at July 9, 2008 2:00 AM:

He doesn't say it, or I missed it, but I think Boone wants results within five years. He is a supply side guy which is why he is talking about wind and CNG and not about insulating attics. Wind and CNG are known to work. And the cost estimates should be accurate.

Notice he says he is for other energy sources: nukes, coal, etc. Those are also known to work but costs are problematical because politics delays or stops almost every effort.

So what else from the supply side could really cut our energy import costs within five years?

James Bowery said at July 9, 2008 10:03 AM:

So what else from the supply side could really cut our energy import costs within five years?

1) Refinery modernizations. (No brainer.)

2) Replacing taxes on economic activity with a single tax on economic rent (liquidation valuation of net assets times risk free interest rate of modern portfolio theory) while replacing public choice rent seeking with a citizens dividend -- which would immediately localize economies and provide market supports for localized energy production. (Requires some intelligence and genuine concern for the nation to, respectively, understand and implement, so naturally WDC won't do it).

Jim said at July 9, 2008 10:48 AM:

James Bowery.
Please cite where you obtained this point of view.
I'm not familiar with these concepts. Without details your "Replacing taxes on economic activity with a single tax on economic rent" sounds suspiciously like socialism (which I'm certain it's not but hard to say without some citations).

Thanks,
Jim

James Bowery said at July 9, 2008 11:12 AM:

"economic rent" is a concept -- originally defined in terms of land rents -- going back at least to Riccardo thence Henry George's single tax on land value. The only connection to socialism I know of is that Karl Marx criticized Geroge's land value tax as (paraphrasing) "the last resort of capitalism" -- that and both Tolstoy and Sun Yat-Sen were promoting it to head off communist revolutions.

The neoclassical economic interpretation is consistent with this in that guys like Milton Friedman recognize that a land tax is the least distorting tax due to there being no dead-weight loss involved with taxing a commodity with total supply inflexibility.

The problem with this original conception based on land, which lead me to redefine economic rent, is that there are a number of assets that behave like land and, indeed, there are limited aspects of all property rights that behave like land: They rise in (net present in place liquidation) value simply by virtue of a growing economy and its positive externalities. Since government's primary function is the protection of property rights, beyond those successfully defended by people in its absence, it makes sense that government would be funded by a use fee deriving from said property rights. The short term interest rate on Treasuries is the proper taxation rate on net present in place liquidation value of assets due to the recognition by modern portfolio theory that this portion of profit is essentially the "no brainer" profit stream of civilization -- its economic rent.

Then the problem becomes what has been called "public choice" by "rent seekers" -- essentially investment in political action to gain a political economic advantage over political competitors. This replaces all of the private economic rent seekers with political activist groups seeking a disproportionate share of the government's collected economic rent. The solution to this is to recognize that all citizens are, in the abstract, "consenting" to legitimate government and that therefore they are best viewed as holding founders shares -- hence should be paid a citizens' dividend, rather than forcing them to contend in the political arena for a slice of government pork.

Both angles, the collection of economic rent and its even dispersal in citizens' dividends, decentralize the political economy away from centralized institutions whether they be in the public or private sectors.

James Bowery said at July 9, 2008 11:43 AM:

inflexibility -> inelasticity

K said at July 9, 2008 12:58 PM:

James: I haven't heard how the single tax or economic rent will provide a single molecule of fuel. Or a substantial amount within five years. So will your suggestion increase supply or reduce demand or both?

Who or what is WDC? I believe you are breaking a fundamental rule of the election year: all stupidity must be attributed to Bush or McCain.

What should be done at refineries that is not being done? Is it better efficiency? A new process? Better ways to use the heavier oils?

(The US has a lot of heavy oil. But it is difficult to extract, clean, and crack. If memory serves, oil specialists recognize nearly 90 types of crude.)

James Bowery said at July 9, 2008 3:01 PM:

Imagine what would happen if you took a bunch of Soviet-era bureaucrats and put them in charge of the investment houses of the US. You might miss a bunch of options for energy production/conservation due to both their distance from the point of potential production/use, as well as the tendency for power to corrupt.

Right?

It should be obvious to the most casual observer that there is a capital market failure going on. Just as it is a bad idea for the government to "pick winners" in energy investments, so it is a bad idea (although not nearly _as_ bad) for highly centralized wealth to try to "pick winners" -- especially if they are wealthy largely due to the fact that they are simply in positions to collect economic rent. You get bad investments hence little real productivity growth.

Remove the subsidy of economic rent from the capital markets and put the capital to work rather than letting it collect economic rent and you'll see some very fast evolution of capital market intelligence.

The question then becomes -- to work doing what exactly?

The answer, of course, is whatever the market demands.

A problem right now is that the consumer base for the market has collapsed into debt so severe that there is virtually no middle class anymore -- leaving the only viable investments in areas that service the very wealthy. This is a natural result of centralizing economic rents by not charging for the service of protecting property rights and then not disbursing the collected rents to the population so they are full participants rather than economically doomed debt slaves left looking for a political coalition to bail them out with public choice rent seeking (which usually happens at the expense of the producers due to taxes on economic activity).

Brock said at July 9, 2008 3:05 PM:

While I share Randall's concerns about wind, I'm fine with them taking a shot at it. But why CNG? Changing the nation's fuel supply infrastructure and swapping out every car in the USA is really expensive. Why replace one un-sustainable hyrdrocarbon with another? I'd rather see an investment in something that's really sustainable, like all-electric or algael diesel.

K said at July 9, 2008 5:35 PM:

James: Thanks. You explain the concepts very well.

We would differ greatly when discussing the problems of capitalism. We would probably agree that matters are not good right now and are worsening. And that the richest are best secured, the middle is sure of nothing, and the poorest are helpless.

One can say those are conditions similar to post WWI Europe east of the Rhine. But one can also say dogs and horses each have four legs so you can exchange a dog for a horse and notice no effect.

Brock wrote:

"But why CNG? Changing the nation's fuel supply infrastructure and swapping out every car in the USA is really expensive. Why replace one un-sustainable hyrdrocarbon with another? I'd rather see an investment in something that's really sustainable, like all-electric or algael diesel."

The answer is in the article. Boone is focused on the near term, proved methods, and reducing oil imports not ending them.

Biodiesel of one type or another might be a roaring success within five years or it might not. All-electric ditto. They don't fit his proposal.

We know wind works and we know CNG cars work. We also know how to build transmission lines. The methods and costs are rather well established for each. And we know a lot of NG is now generating electricity. So he advocates using wind generated electricity to free up NG for cars.

A distribution network for NG to most every parts of the country already exits. He said nothing about changing every car.

Jim Libke said at July 9, 2008 5:52 PM:

Why all the discussion about crap that is not relevant to the need for sustainable energy planning in this country (USA/CANADA)? Utilizing present/new technology none of you are remotely aware - in expanding natural gas liquefaction methods (developed in a midwest "skunk works" and awaiting commercial capital), where pure methane [CH4]can be economically produced even at remote/stranded well head reserves (more than the nation can ever use in the extended future); and economically transported by truck, rail, boat barge or plane - direct to point of use WITHOUT constricted, expensive, unavailable pipelines - anywhere in the country - at a price much, much lower than oil will ever be. Working with present compressed gas infratructure; and present diesel/gasoline to natural gas conversion on going efforts applied to fleet needs, the dependence on foreign oil can be slashed to a point of a market favorable to the national interests. I'm talking about technology 2X+ better than the present known including the best German efforts. The energy solution can NOT be accomplished backing up to old technology on a simply grander scale like the fellow selling a commodity at a loss who decided to use bigger trucks to haul it! i.e. corn ethanol, wind, solar, etc. I refer instead to LNG* - natural gas reduced to liquid, the most under utilized, most economical, most cost efficient for BTU produced compared to cost of production, most enviromental friendly, most plentiful in known proven reserves; and most strategically located of any quality/quantity fuel in the nation. Some (a few) biggies are sniffing around; one or two have caught the scent! If TBP knew the facts here he would jump on it like a hungry duck on a junebug!
* Some domestic manufacturing (maybe thirty plants), but most foreign imports.

Jim said at July 9, 2008 7:40 PM:

I still like the smell of algae better, but hey, one day you'll let us in on the new secret sauce (LNG).

Thanks for the positive spin (just love positive for a change albeit lacking any details other than a wink-wink).

btw: we were all over the obvious practicality of LNG last month I believe...

-Jim

Randall Parker said at July 9, 2008 8:13 PM:

K,

Cut oil imports in 5 years by supply side methods: You can't use nuclear because the lead time is too long. You can't use solar because it still costs too much. Wave tech isn't ready. Biomass energy is already tapped out with corn above $7 per bushel and algae biodiesel not ready yet. Not sure what could be done with geothermal on that time scale.

I can only think of one thing: Open up more lower 48 states land oil fields to drilling. Whereas ANWR and offshore have longer lead times.

There's a lot more that can be done on the demand side:

1) Better building insulation.

2) Shift to ground sink heat pumps.

3) Add automated controls to buildings to control window shading.

4) Tax credits for buying PHEVs and pure electric vehicles. Ditto for CNG vehicles.

Really, the problem is that we can't get enough liquid fuel. We have to shift to other types of fuel. Pickens is tying CNG cars to wind. But the more important part of it is the CNG for cars. There are multiple ways to replace natural gas in electric power generation.

Randall Parker said at July 9, 2008 8:39 PM:

Jim,

Algae: I'm rooting for biodiesel algae. But I can not tell how long it is going to take to make it viable. 3 years? 5 years? 10 years? 15 years with a whole lot of genetic engineering? I have no idea.

Positive spin: I think a huge scaling up of wind electric is possible. It'll cost more than coal electric and probably more than nuclear. But it can get built faster than nuclear.

Also, a big shift to CNG cars is possible as well. It would even lower fuel costs more than it would increase car costs. This is economically viable, especially for people who do long commutes.

Brock,

We do not have to replace our existing cars to shift to CNG. High mileage drivers can find it cost effective to convert existing cars. Some aftermarket companies (and I linked to one) have EPA and/or CARB certifications for conversion kits for some limited number of models. Increase the demand and the number of certifications for existing models would go up. Though this sort of conversion only makes economic sense if you spend big money on gasoline.

Fat Man said at July 9, 2008 10:17 PM:

Here is my problem with this and almost every other conversation about energy and its future. The word energy is a high level abstraction that has proved to be useful when discussing physical phenomena, but sometimes the abstraction conceals more than it reveals.

None of us needs energy per se. We need to have work performed. We need to have persons and things moved through space. We need to have air heated and cooled and moved. We need light, and chemical transformations. To these and other ends we have invented a variety of engines that convert some form of energy into some useful work. But, none of these engines uses an abstract form of energy. They all use a specific fuel (i.e., an energy rich substance) to accomplish their ends. Further, the fuels cannot be interchanged without modifications to the engine or the process that will require a capital expenditure.

Some transformations are relatively cheap or easy. It requires very little effort to get a diesel engine to use vegetable oil as a fuel, unless you are in the north country and need to install tank heaters. CNG can be used by most gasoline engines with small changes and some extra plumbing. It is not costless, but if gasoline stays at $4/gal. and NG doesn't spike past its current level (which is about 2x what it was a year ago) it might pay for itself pretty quickly. Alternatively, NG can be used to synthesize a liquid fuel via well known and characterized processes. Not costlessly, but not so expensive as to preclude its consideration.

However, when we get to this point, and Pickens has already, somebody brings up wind and solar electricity production. Both are fine and dandy, but neither of them produces a first order product that we can use in our existing engines and systems. The electricity that they produce cannot run our electric grid and its attached engines beyond a few percent because its stability and presence cannot be guaranteed. If the electric grid becomes unstable it will collapse. And, it does not take all that much to induce such instability. You may recall the northeast blackout of a few years ago was triggered by a few power lines in northeastern Ohio that sagged into the undergrowth on a hot afternoon.

Solar is of course guaranteed to disappear every evening, but the winds are far less reliable. Even if the average wind turbine runs 1/3rd of the time, building three of them does not guarantee 100% coverage. Indeed because of the locality of the winds, it is likely that 3 machines in the same area will all be on or all be off at the same time. Carpeting the entire US with wind machines may assure that some of them will probably be producing power at any given time, but it cannot guarantee that enough of them will be doing so on, say Christmas Eve, which is usually cold and dark in the northeast.

Generally speaking, switching fixed operations to electricity consumption, e.g. HVAC, and using our fossil fuel supplies for transportation fuel is a good idea. Liquid hydrocarbons are fairly economic and convenient to use as transportation fuel. Although some modes of transportation, particularly railroads, can be switched to grid electricity*. Others, such as ocean going ships and airplanes will clearly need to stay with hydrocarbon fuels.

But, taking that step requires reliable grid electricity. Wind and Solar don't produce it, unless they are the front ends of a much larger and more intricate system. I cannot specify that system, and I have not seen one suggested with specific features that can be analyzed for cost and effectiveness.

*Most of you have a touching faith in electric battery powered automobiles. I don't. I doubt that the order of magnitude improvement in the cost, capacity and size of batteries that is necessary to make them practical will ever happen. We may find that small battery powered urban runabouts can form a practical and economic supplement to our fleet, but even then they may not affect overall transportation fuel usage.

K said at July 9, 2008 11:19 PM:

Fat Man:

You high level view is makes some good points. But it leads into the paralysis-by-analysis cul-de-sac where everyone goes round in circles and all projects are on hold. Eisenhower would still be waiting to invade Normandy.

And if you want an real example: it pretty much describes the US nuclear situation for the last 30 years.

Pickens has a plan. It is to do X and Y by methods A and B. His scheme has the advantage of being scalable. The CNG idea is independent from the wind proposal. If it doesn't work you fix it or stop and little is lost. I would love to see something better that might actually get done.

There are a lot of wind installations now and a few are 30 years old. It isn't as if we have no idea of what will happen if we make a heavy investment in wind.

I think most of these predicted grid disasters are fantasy. Yes, grids fail. Our eastern seaboard lost power for a day of so and the country survived. And wind towers weren't involved. Hurricanes and floods stop normal life in huge areas for days or weeks and we recover.

If the wind stopped for a few days then it would resume. Inconvenience is not the end of civilization.

Nick G said at July 9, 2008 11:26 PM:

"Add automated controls to buildings to control window shading."

I'm not familiar with this - do you have more info?

"Shift to ground sink heat pumps."

I think for most people that the newest air-sink models are most cost-effective.

"a huge scaling up of wind electric is possible. It'll cost more than coal electric "

It's much more expensive than existing, amortized coal plants, but have you seen the cost estimates for new ones?? I think wind can easily compete.

K: "All-electric ditto. They don't fit his proposal."

But plugins are practical now, and will be on the market in 2010. After that it's a matter of scaling them up.

jerry tokos said at July 10, 2008 3:51 AM:

I agree with pickens(I am also an oklahoma state alumnus)
An immediate (2 years) would be to implement the hydristor into our car fleet. This would double the gas mileage for regular gas or natural gas. The savings are even greater in a hybrid. For more information, look up hydristor on google and read about the possibilities in many different energy applications.
J.T.

Brock said at July 10, 2008 7:11 AM:

Just some more thoughts.

1. NG is cheaper than gasoline. Now. When only 150,000 cars are using it. What happens to the price when 150,000,000 cars are using it?
2. What's so special about 5 years? Maybe a solution that takes 10 years, but lasts 100 years (rather than less) is better.

The Plan said:
98% of the natural gas used in the United States is from North America. But 70% of our oil is purchased from foreign nations.
This quote from "the plan" is a bullshit comparison. Half of US energy imports are from "foreign nations" in "North America". Also, again, how long will that 98% figure stay where it is once 150,000,000 cars are using it? I'd guess a week, max, and five years after that people will decry our "natural gas addiction" which makes our State Department supine every time Gazprom looks at them funny.
Randall said:
I suspect that Boone's biggest motivation in setting up an organization to promote his proposal is to work for policy changes in the US Congress that will change the regulatory environment to one where the capital markets will supply the large sums of money needed to build up electric transmission infrastructure that will enable huge growth of wind power.
I think this is right. The main reason TBP is pushing the Plan is because his Mesa project means his company is the natural leader for a new industry, and will attract capital at a lower cost than competitors. They have the working experience that cannot be faked or purchased. This is him trying to make a few more $B's. I applaud wealth creation, this "Plan" is just marketing.

And the NG stuff is still short term thinking. NG is non-renewable and polluting; even if it's better than oil at this instant, given current market conditions, it's a lousy long term strategy.

I think algae is closer than most people realize. Lots of companies are building pilot plants right now, with commercial production planned in relatively short time frames. But even if algae isn't the winning ticket, I think NG is still a loser (long term).

James said at July 10, 2008 7:25 AM:

Hmm, I like what Ive seen of his Plan, His plan seems smarter the the BarkO's Or McLame. Ive signed a petition this morning asking McCain and Obama to embrace his plan. You can go to the link if you want to sign the petition, or see more about the plan. http://www.tboonpickens.com

You can vote to make Boone VP, LOL at http://www.VeepPeek.com

scotty said at July 10, 2008 10:04 AM:

There is a public Forum for discussions about Pickens plan :
www.pickensenergyplan.com
Cheers.

K said at July 10, 2008 1:22 PM:

Brock et al.

Nothing is special about five years. Boone clearly says the oil import bill has to be cut. And I doubt if he means in 10, 20, or 50 years. If he did he wouldn't frame his arguments as he has. Far more likely he would say double research, EVs are the way, build nuclear, fusion, power from solar, clean coal, etc.

It would take about five years to get a substantial part of his program into construction. Demonstration could be done in three. I expect the not-invented-here syndrome will make DOE ignore it or oppose it.

The national labs and universities will sneer. They want to work only on wonderful technologies that don't work now but surely will - in a decade or two.

Of course the price of NG will go up as more CNG vehicles appear. Let it. People will then buy fewer CNG vehicles. No reason to fiddle with the market or to not try because CNG might be displaced by something else in the future. Of course it will be displaced.

The NG no longer used at power plants will somewhat offset rising CNG consumption. But the CNG and Wind ideas are independent. Boone wants to sell wind power and is heavily invested in it. He is using the CNG aspect is a selling point for the Wind.

i.e. CNG will displace some oil as a motor fuel, cut emissions a little, and reduce our import bill.

Repeatedly saying CNG will be needed for 150,000,000 cars is a good example of a Strawman. First you put words in someone's mouth. Then you point out those words are foolish or impractical. There has been no suggestion that 150,000,000 cars would be gulping CNG in five years or in fifty.

Randall Parker said at July 10, 2008 6:50 PM:

Nick G.

Automated window shades: Some buildings have automated systems which pull down or turn window shades to reduce or increase the amount of sunlight getting into the building based on the time of day and inside and outside temperature. There's a California state government building in LA (DMV?) that does this. Saw it on TV.

Brock,

Two of our biggest suppliers of oil are Venezuela and Mexico which are both on downward slopes in oil production. The Venezuelan government denies this and exaggerates its oil production by several hundred thousand barrels per day. Whereas Mexico does not hide how badly Cantarell production is cratering. We can't count on them. By 2015 we won't be getting any oil from Mexico.

We need to shift to CNG for cars while scaling up wind, solar, and nuclear just to free up natural gas to replace the oil which we'll lose as old oil fields produce less every year. My guess is that shift will be driven by higher prices rather than by the Pickens Plan.

K said at July 10, 2008 8:49 PM:

Nick G: Automated shades are common in the Phoenix area. Most are in upscale homes, but then most of the good stuff tends to be in upscale homes.

The shades work best with modern homes having a lot of vertical glass and eaves with little overhang. The more traditional southwest styles have deep eaves which keep the summer sun from striking glass. The lower winter sun can still heat.

Business and government buildings must certainly be using them too. I have only encountered one such. But serious green design will be reducing windows area; the sleek glass tower comes with a high energy bill.

Nick G said at July 13, 2008 5:27 PM:

Randall & K,

Any idea how automated shades interact with modern energy-efficient glass (low-E, etc) used in modern office buildings?

K said at July 14, 2008 3:05 PM:

It depends on what the shades were chosen for. That might be convenience - like a tv remote - or to control lighting level or for energy management. I worked in a glass tower with tinted windows. The afternoon sun produced unbearable light and heat, so I got up and closed the 12-foot-high drapes around noon. On the very rare cold evenings I closed the drapes to stay warmer.

Windows are passive. Simple double-paned windows don't reduce light or radiant heat passage very much, they do reduce heat conductivity just like insulation in the attic. The more expensive low-e multi-paned windows do block radiant heat passage, but even the best are not a miracle cure.

For active energy management drapes or louvers with both insulation and reflective qualities must be opened and closed.

Controllable glass will be available soon. It can be switched electronically to admit light and radiant heat or reject it. The price? Well you know how that is, but if you visit Dubai don't miss seeing some.

Randall Parker said at July 14, 2008 6:20 PM:

Nick G,

External shades basically are there to prevent the sun from hitting the windows. So they would seem to reduce the need for glass that selectively lets in some frequencies and not others.

Internal automated drapes probably are more there to improve insulation. Glass is a poor insulator. Even the best triple-paned argon windows only are R-8.

Nick G said at July 15, 2008 8:41 AM:

I'm not familiar with external automated shades. Internal ones seem convenient, but unnecessary in a residence - hand control seems adequate to me (unless one is living in a home that is arguably too big for one's real needs).

"Glass is a poor insulator."

Well, we added laminated glass (3/8" for movable windows, and 1/2" for immovable) to our double-paned thermopane windows, and we no longer need heat until outside temps are below freezing.

Nick G said at July 15, 2008 8:46 AM:

What if you need lighting? Which is better: opening the drapes of a conventional window to let in light (including infrared), or turning on internal lighting? Does incandescent vs CFL change the answer?

K said at July 15, 2008 1:25 PM:

Nick G: the answers to your questions depend too much upon local conditions. I never intend to buy anything but LED lamps aka. bulbs in the future. I have six now. They still cost a lot, I won't recover the cost in my remaining life, but they save the most, are small, and reliable.

All lighting produces heat. Your air conditioning uses power to remove the heat from the lighting. So the incandescent light raises your AC cost. CFLs less, LED the least. Heat coming through the windows may be welcome in winter but the AC has to deal with it in summer. Visible spectrum light itself has very little power.

Story: I have heard that forest and brush fires radiate heat in through windows and a tightly sealed house will ignite from within. Sounds sensible. You are supposed to leave your windows partly open and have vented shutters or something equivalent to block the radiant heat.

There is a great range of glass types and windows. R-1 is a single pane of glass, the standard window. R-11 is the highest rating I have seen, triple-panes, argon filled. It insulates 11 times as well as R-1 and that still isn't very high. A standard wall might be R-32, three times as good as the best window.

The laminated glass worked for you. Anything is better than R-1. Glass is a poor insulator but use enough and the R-# climbs.

The double and triple-panes make a house much quieter. I value that, other's won't.

Simple experiments can tell you a lot. Open the drapes on a south facing room, block the AC vent, and close the door. Around noon go in. It it is much too hot then keep the drapes shut and use a small light in the summer. In the winter you may want that heat to flow into the colder rooms. Open the drapes.

Lighting itself costs you very little.

Heat management costs a lot: hot water, home heating, air conditioning, cooking, refrigerators, fans are the active part. And the passive part, window upgrades, drapes, and more insulation is expensive too.

Nick G said at July 15, 2008 2:03 PM:

"All lighting produces heat. "

I suspect that the ratio of light to heat is higher for solar light vs artificial (either incandescent or CFL), but I'm not sure. The sun has the advantage of being 93M miles away, while bulbs are right inside the house, where the heat has nowhere else to go. The difference is that the sun is brighter, but for equal light levels I suspect windows are better.

"R-11 is the highest rating I have seen, triple-panes, argon filled."

I suspect our aproach gets something similar - dual-pane thermopane, an air space, then laminate (2 panes of glass sandwiched around plastic): 4 panes of glass, 2 gas barriers, 1 plastic layer.

"The double and triple-panes make a house much quieter."

That's really why we added the laminate: works like a charm.

"Heat management costs a lot"

The easiest thing I've seen so far is elimination of waste heat that must in turn be moved by A/C: going to CFL's, turning off lights in unused rooms, etc. hmmm - perhaps that's where the automated drapes might come in handy - it's easy to turn off lights at the door, but who's going to close drapes every time one leaves the room?

All of the other things are much, much cheaper on construction or on replacement at normal end-of-life.

JEFF T said at August 6, 2008 2:03 PM:

We have a two-fold plan to end U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.This plan consists of a dual system: The Interim System, and The Permanent System. The Interim System will keep the country running at an estimated .99-$1.30 in fuel costs. This initial step will yield gasoline and diesel fuels for any residual use during the interim. The Permanent System will consist of a new motor which will enable the country to realize a 90% drop in fuel cost, while generating the same amount of power. For example, once this system is in place, a family of four will be able to travel from New York City to Los Angeles,California for approximately 15%. This plan will utilize 100% American resources. The concept fundamental to the plan totally excludes the use of batteries, solar and wind power, as well as geo-thermal sources. There will therefore be no depletion of corn crops; nor will hydrogen be employed. The central idea to this System is completely new and uniquely fitted to our current situation.

Tom Kasmer said at October 7, 2009 6:23 AM:

My name is Tom Kasmer and I am the inventor of the Hydristor. Please Google the word and also try BING. The retrofit program I am developing will double or even triple the fuel economy while simultaneously reducing existing CO2 emissions by 75%. Performance is a bonus in the bargain. Since energy is recycled and saved, this energy can be added to the engine output to achieve tremendous acceleration for all vehicles; gasoline, diesel, CNG and electric powered. If all the vehicles in the USA were converted to the Hydristor (taking 5-6 years at a cost of $200 billion), the national use of oil would be cut in half and the substantial reduction of existing CO2 could begin the rollback of global warming. This technology would also benefit CNG, especially the performance aspect. Imagine a CNG retrofitted and Hydristor retrofitted Ford Expedition getting 40 Mpg CNG equivelent mileage in the city while acceleration to 60 in AWD in 3 seconds due to energy storage. I have sent several letters to Mr Pickens with no response. I can only assume that staffers are filing my letters in the circular file. If anyone knows how to contact Mr. Pickens, please do so and ask him to consider this technology. I am an individual inventor with near zero funding. Yet I have constructed several prototypes and achieved 4 patents on very, very limited funds. This is especially important due to the great increase of natural supply presently cited. I have remained dedicated to this vision despite the
deprivation of self and family. I believe the Hydristor can save the future for our kids and grandkids. I also believe the sum total of all the efforts underway will not make the cut. Please consider this technology. I need help. I want to thank Jerry Tokos for his kind comments.
Tom Kasmer 607-2068960 , tkasmer@yahoo.com

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