The Pickens Plan and natural gas vehicles
Have you heard of the Pickens Plan yet?
Keep an eye on a YouTube near you, because it’s exploding there.
The idea being pushed by T. Boone Pickens is fairly simple to understand, and I’ll simplify it even more here: To reduce our use of foreign oil, we take our domestic natural gas production and divert it to powering our automobiles. We use wind energy to make up for the loss of natural gas on our national energy grid.
This plan wouldn’t free us from importing foreign oil, but Pickens argues it would bridge the gap until hydrogen or electric powered cars are a feasible option.
As good as this plan sounds, it seems like there’s a fundamental problem with it. It’s the same problem that’s keeping hydrogen from becoming mainstream: places to fill up. See many natural gas stations on your last road trip?
The logistics and infrastructure required to add natural gas filling stations is only slightly less intimidating than building hydrogen filling stations. At least there are already vehicles, mostly in the public transportation domain, that are running on compressed natural gas. Honda even has a CNG car in the Civic GX, but the car doesn’t deliver any better MPG numbers than a standard Civic LX.
I admire Pickens’ drive to create sustainable, domestic fuel for our cars. But this plan is only somewhat plausible in the coming years, when we need a solution that is feasible today.
And so far, nothing I see beats plain old conservation in the form of lighter, more fuel efficient gas and diesel cars while we wait for the next generation of clean auto fuel, whether that be CNG, hydrogen, electricity or something else entirely.
What do you think: Is Pickens a genius or a nut job?