Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pickens: "How Ukraine-Russia tensions could get the U.S. to rethink energy policy"

An opinion piece by T. Boone Pickens:
Once again, energy has vaulted to the top of the agenda in Washington, D.C. Too bad it has nothing to do with Congress or the administration showing any leadership on getting America an energy plan for the first time in 40 years. The reason energy is such a hot topic right now? Two words: Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this month, the Russian president inked a $400 billion natural-gas contract between Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation. All eyes have been on Russia for closing this 30-year mega deal, but from my perspective, what matters most is that it demonstrates yet again that the Chinese have an energy plan that they are diligently pursuing, and we don't.

That's the geologist in me venting about America's lack of leadership on energy security. The conflicts between Russia and Ukraine has made everyone an expert in oil and gas production, oil and gas transmission, oil and gas refining, and oil and gas exports. The only problem with these self-appointed energy experts is that none of them have any idea what they're talking about.

What has happened with Putin and Ukraine is that they have focused attention on Europe, which is dependent – to a major degree – on natural gas produced in and shipped from Russia. Before we roll our collective eyes at how the Europeans could be so stupid as to put themselves in that situation, remember we've done the same thing ourselves.

Every day America imports about 50% of the oil it uses. A good deal of that comes from our major trading partners, Canada and Mexico, but about 36% of the oil we import comes from OPEC at a cost of over $11 billion per month. The truth is we are just as dependent on OPEC oil as Germany is on Russian natural gas. Germany imports 36% of its natural gas imports and 39% of its oil imports from Russian energy suppliers. Now what do you think?

But there's a key difference: America has the capacity to reduce its dependence on OPEC oil to about 25% of our current imports. That's because the United States is blessed with the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. Thanks to modern drilling techniques, the natural gas and oil in shale formations are now working their way into the nation's energy supply and powering state and local economies.

A lot of people have jumped onto the "export natural gas to Europe" bandwagon. Their goal is to destabilize the Russian economy by undercutting the European natural gas market. They say America's natural gas producers should have access to higher price markets overseas, but it's just not that simple.

First of all, I'm not sure we want Russia going from being a bully operating from economic stability to a bully operating from economic desperation. Second, permitting and actual exports are no quick fix. Export terminals need federal permits, and, even if they were fast-tracked, you are looking at late 2015 or even 2016 before full-scale exports are even feasible. Third, we should be looking for ways to use that oil and natural gas right here at home to help rebuild our economy on the back of cheap, domestic fuels, not rebuild the economies of Europe.

During their safety announcements you've heard flight attendants say, "Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping someone else with theirs." The same goes with energy. Let's figure out how to use it best here in America before we go helping someone else use our energy.

Here's a simple for instance. On Monday, the Obama administration is expected to unveil new climate change rules that looks to replace one domestic energy source – coal – with another energy source – natural gas. Wait a minute. Why aren't we replacing a foreign fuel source – imported diesel – with a domestic fuel source – natural gas? Not only would this help the administration achieve its goals of lowering emissions and cleaning up the environment but it would also go a long way toward zeroing out our trade deficit.

Instead of exporting our cleaner burning natural gas as all of these self-appointed energy experts are suggesting, we should be exporting our technology. The North American continent is not the only place in the world where shale oil and gas exist. It is estimated that by using hydro-fracking and horizontal drilling techniques, Ukraine could dramatically cut its dependence on foreign oil and gas. Same with the UK, Ireland, and a good deal of the European continent. We can sell them the technology, the workers, and the equipment to help them get off Russian oil and gas – or at least reduce the size of the club that Putin threatens them with – while utilizing the energy we're producing to power our way to prosperity.

Another effect of reducing our reliance on OPEC oil is reducing or removing our Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. One of the Fifth Fleet's principal roles is to protect OPEC oil that is shipped from the Persian Gulf, through the Strait of Hormuz, and on to its final destinations. Americans – you and I – pay 100% of those costs. Yet, 90% of OPEC oil ends up in China, India, Japan, and other countries. We pay all of the costs of protecting all of the oil, yet we get only 10 percent. So the next time someone brings up the Keystone XL pipeline, ask them how many of our aircraft carriers it would take to protect Canadian oil.

The quickest way to better our energy security is to help heavy-duty truckers and fleet owners switch from imported diesel and gasoline to domestic natural gas. Mind you – I'm not talking about your car or mine. It isn't feasible to shift a significant percentage of personal vehicles – cars and light trucks – to natural gas. By the time we made a dent in the 250 million vehicles on the road we'd be bumping up against a completely new fuel source – electricity or hydrogen.

But, there are only 8 million heavy-duty trucks – 18-wheelers, refuse and recycling trucks as examples – on our highways. Over-the-road trucks tend to travel the same routes on a regular schedule, so placing refueling facilities at appropriate places on our Interstates is a simple logistical problem that private industry is well on its way to solving.

Fleet vehicles like delivery and utility vans, taxis, municipal buses and government vehicles that go to a central parking facility every night can easily refuel with natural gas.

If we did those two things – shift heavy-duty trucks and fleet vehicles to natural gas – we would reduce our need for OPEC oil by 75% in about five years. If we also showed the Europeans how to use modern drilling techniques during that same period, we could reduce their dependence on Russian natural gas and oil in a well-ordered fashion and keep the Russians from panicking.

Making America's energy policy a top priority on our national agenda is a very good thing. Using the Russian/Ukraine situation to force us to think about how we should best use that energy would change the course of the American economy for the rest of the 21st century.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supporting The DGE Unit Of Measure

Here's a letter addressed to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in support of establishing the diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) standard for dispensing liquified natural gas. Consideration is being given to requiring LNG dispensing to be measured in metric terms, which would make it a challenge for the consumer to compare the price of LNG to the price of diesel, gasoline or any other fuel. CNG is already measured in gasoline gallon equivalents at the pump. The letter is signed by representatives from the American Gas Association, America's Natural Gas Alliance, American Public Gas Association, American Trucking Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, NGVAmerica, Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, and the Truck Renting and Leasing Association.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

National Conference of Weights and Measures Hoping to Pass New Regs in July that Would Hamper Growth of Natural Gas Vehicle Industry

Saturday, June 21, 2014

National Conference of Weights and Measures Hoping to Pass New Regs in July that Would Hamper Growth of Natural Gas Vehicle Industry

Thanks in part to the efforts of Clean Cities Coalitions around the country, utilization of natural gas as a motor fuel has been steadily increasing since new domestic production of this natural resource began in the mid-2000s. It has provided fleet operators with a cheaper and cleaner way to operate their vehicles. Additionally, elected policymakers have supported adoption of natural gas motor fuel as a strategy to achieve energy independence.

Unfortunately, just as natural gas is starting to penetrate the commuter vehicle market, regulators are making a hard push to force consumers to purchase natural gas motor fuel in kilograms. The National Conference of Weights and Measures, which is comprised of state weights and measures officials, is attempting to pass this new regulation at its annual meeting in mid-July.

Forcing the metric system on natural gas motor fuel consumers is discriminatory because other motor fuels such as gasoline and diesel are sold in gallons and not kilograms. This regulation is also unnecessary since natural gas motor fuel is currently sold in gallon equivalents.

A gasoline gallon equivalent of natural gas has the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline; likewise, a diesel gallon equivalent has the same energy content as a gallon of diesel. These units allow the consumer to make an easy price comparison between natural gas and conventional fuels. It also allows consumers to purchase fuel in units in which they are familiar.

Consumers, elected officials, industry stakeholders and the marketplace have built a consensus around gas gallon equivalents as the method of sale. Many Clean Cities coalitions are asking stakeholders to let state governors and state weights and measures officials know they support gas gallon equivalents before chaos and confusion slows the growth of the emerging NGV market.

Fortunately, California is one of the states that has already indicated its support to keep gas gallon equivalents. So while the Clean Cities Coachella Valley Region isn’t asking stakeholders to write to ask for our leaders’ support, we encourage you to call or email Governor Brown and the California Department of Weights and Measures thanking them for their common sense leadership on this important issue.

Evolving Infrastructure For Alternative Fuels

Here's an article by Stephane Babcock that looks at the different aspects of the developing alternative fuel infrastructure.
"A national infrastructure is going to bubble up from a lot of local investment. There is not going to be a big, grand plan that is composed by the federal government, nor should there be," [Kathryn Clay, vice president of policy strategy at the American Gas Association] said. "But, what we can create, through regulatory policy, is the right environment to make it easy for investors to build those stations."

In addition to CNG the article addresses fuel cell technology, propane autogas, Dimethyl ether (DME), and electric vehicles.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Idle Reduction

Question of the Month: Why is idle reduction important? What are ways that I can prevent idling, and what are the benefits of doing so?

Answer: Idling, the time when a vehicle's engine is on but the vehicle is not moving, wastes over 6 billion gallons of fuel each year in the United States according to Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). This adds up to more than $20 billion annually in fuel costs. For example, heavy-duty trucks frequently idle at rest stops; an estimated 650,000 long-haul trucks use more than 685 million gallons of fuel per year by unnecessary idling. Idle reduction technologies and practices can help lower fuel consumption and fuel costs, protect public health and the environment, and increase U.S. energy security. Reducing idle time can also help reduce engine wear and maintenance costs. Finally, idling for long periods is illegal in many states and jurisdictions.

Idle Reduction Technologies and Practices

Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Truck stop electrification and onboard equipment can help reduce idling at truck stops, roadsides, and delivery sites. It is important to note that the cost-effectiveness of the technologies below depend on the vehicle applications and climates in which they are used as well as the duration of the idling.

  • Truck Stop Electrification provides power from an external source for important systems such as air conditioning, heating, and appliances without needing to idle the engine during required stops at rest areas.
  • Auxiliary Power Units are portable units that are mounted to the vehicle, and provide power for climate control and electrical devices in trucks, locomotives, and marine vehicles without idling the primary vehicle engine.
  • Energy Recovery Systems use the vehicle's heat-transfer system to keep the truck's heater operating after the engine is turned off, using engine heat that would otherwise dissipate.
  • Automatic Engine Stop-Start Controls sense the temperature in the sleeper cabin and automatically turn the engine on if the sleeper is too hot or too cold.
  • Cab or Bunk Heaters supply warm air to the cab or bunk compartment using small diesel heaters. Heaters can be coupled with air conditioners if needed.

School Buses

School bus idling is particularly problematic because of the negative health impacts for children. School bus engines should be turned off while the engine is not needed, such as at loading and unloading areas, and should only be turned back on when the bus is ready to depart. Idle reduction technologies for school buses that operate in cold climates include small on-board diesel cabin heaters and electrical block heaters, which can provide warming for the passenger compartment and engine.

Light- and Medium-Duty Vehicles

For light-and medium-duty vehicles, the primary idle reduction strategy is to turn the engine off when the vehicle is parked or stopped for long periods of time. Drivers can also reduce petroleum consumption by avoiding the use of a remote vehicle starter and obeying no-idle zones. Fleets may implement policies to set minimum fuel-efficiency targets or require the use of idle reduction practices. In addition, fleet managers can train their drivers on the benefits of reduced idling and how to use idle reduction strategies.

For vehicles that must stop often or for extended periods of time, such as cabs, limousines, and utility trucks, the idle reduction technologies below can be implemented:

  • Air Heaters operate on engine fuel and are self-contained units that blow hot air directly into the vehicle's interior. These are similar to the heaters for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Coolant Heaters use the vehicle's heat-transfer system and are mounted in the engine compartment. This technology uses the vehicle's fuel to heat the coolant, and then pumps the heated coolant through the engine, radiator, and heater box. By keeping the engine warm, the coolant heater reduces the impact of cold starts. These are similar to the heaters for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Waste-Heat Recovery Systems are similar to the energy recovery systems mentioned above for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Auxiliary Power Systems are similar to the auxiliary power units mentioned above for heavy-duty vehicles.
  • Automatic Power Management Systems allow a vehicle driver to turn off the engine and use battery power to run the accessories from the battery. When the power management system senses the battery getting low, it restarts the engine until battery levels regenerate.
  • Hybridization enables vehicles requiring power take-off equipment to perform work with the main engine off.

Idling Regulations

There are many state and local laws and incentives in place to reduce idling in specific jurisdictions. For information on current idling reduction incentives and regulations, see the Clean Cities IdleBase tool and the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Laws and Incentives database. While most current laws apply to diesel vehicles, increasingly laws are beginning to address gasoline vehicles as well.

Idle Reduction Tools

IdleBox Toolkit

The IdleBox toolkit includes resources such as print products, templates, presentations, and information resources that can assist in creating idle reduction projects for medium- and heavy-duty fleets. IdleBox can also be used to educate policymakers, fleet managers, drivers, and others about the benefits of idle reduction.

Idle Reduction Worksheets

ANL has light- and heavy-duty idle reduction worksheets for drivers and fleet managers on their Idle Reduction Tools and Outreach Materials page. The worksheets can help calculate the cost of avoidable idling, as well as potential savings from reducing idling time by implementing technologies and practices.

Additional Resources

For additional information about idling and idle reduction, please see the following resources:

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"The situation in Ukraine shouldn't be our fight"

The latest update from T. Boone Pickens:

You want to know how Russia and Ukraine fit into our energy picture? They don't.

Some people, particularly in Washington, say we should use natural gas exports to support U.S. foreign policy objectives. I disagree. That's not our fight. I believe we should use our natural gas to support Americans, not Ukrainians.

Let's get our country the energy plan it deserves. We've got the resources. The only thing we're lacking is the leadership.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

U.S. Slow To Adopt Natural Gas Vehicles

The title of the article by Michael Fitzsimmons is Natural Gas Transportation: What's Taking The U.S. So Long?. The U.S. still imports petroleum at the rate of 9.2 million barrels/day (in March 2014). Petroleum product exports have risen, but are still less than 4 million bpd. U.S. petroleum consumption averages 18.5 million bpd. "US politicians seem to prefer sending Americans' energy dollars out of the country for oil - primarily from Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela." The vehicle that can "substantially reduce foreign oil imports and protect the US economy against events like those seen recently in Libya, Ukraine and Iraq" is a natural gas/electric hybrid engine architecture.

"Combined with the Cummins Inc new game-changing 12-liter ISX12-G engine, Clean Energy's natural gas refueling infrastructure is having a meaningful affect in the long-haul trucking sector."

"When will US energy policymakers stop depending on unwise military interventions and start depending on what we have right here at home: abundant reserves of cheap and clean natural gas?"

Thursday, June 12, 2014

$66 Million In Funding And Technical Assistance

The EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Newsletter lists several sources of possible funding in support of climate and energy initiatives including...
  • Projects on Indian lands
  • Grants to reduce solar "soft costs"
  • Projects to reduce diesel emissions
  • Projects that advance job creation and reduce energy bills while increasing energy and climate security
  • Proposals to improve communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability offices and place-based foundations
  • Proposals for the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies
  • Proposals for the Local Foods, Local Places program
  • Tribal projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions
  • Proposals for research on the development of sound science to inform state and local policy makers about approaches to enable effective implementation of air pollution controls for the greatest public health benefits

Additional information about developing and implementing cost-effective climate and energy strategies can be found via the EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Program site.

Fort Smith Arkansans Consider CNG

In an opinion piece, Times Record of Fort Smith, Arkansas, considers the savings of driving CNG vehicles if it involves converting a gasoline engine to run on either fuel. Their conclusion: "Is CNG for you? Maybe not today unless you put 80,000 miles a year on your vehicles. But maybe someday."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Misinformation About FCEVs

Many of us are working hard to get us away from the traditional transportation fuels i.e. Gasoline and Diesel. Clean Cities is interested in all such technologies that hold that promise. FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) are one. Normally we focus on CNG/LNG because we're the D.O.E's Clean Cities Coalition for the Coachella Valley and have the best infrastructure in place from one end of the valley to the other. In the City of Coachella there will soon be another public CNG fueling station. The kind of misinformation described below hurts all of us in the field and these untruths must be exposed.

You can read the letter from Julian Cox that contains misinformation here.

Here is the response from the California Hydrogen Business Council:
From: Emanuel Wagner []
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 1:19 PM
Subject: Recent Attack on FCEVs - CEC Letter and Cleantechnica Article / Sandy Thomas Response

Dear CHBC Board Members,

I wanted to inform you about a recent lengthy and misleading article on a clean energy blog that was also sent to CEC's Grant and Loans Officer, Rachel Kiley, raising "severe issues with fuel cell vehicle GHG emissions and CEC's funding of h2 infrastructure."

In case you haven't heard about it, and since you will not have time to actually read the 14+ page article, in short, it claims the following:
  • Fuel Cell Vehicle technology does not reduce GHG emissions over an existing equivalent gasoline vehicle
  • EVs are inherently a more efficient and economical per mile usage of natural gas than FCEVs
  • There are far better and easier ways to make natural gas powered vehicles than FCEVs
  • There are much more effective ways for $200M USD to deliver emissions reductions
  • There are deep concerns of false marketing surrounding FCEVs
  • Funding FCEV fueling infrastructure is a reversal from supporting renewables to supporting fossil fuel
  • Supporting "pre-commercial" FCEVs conflicts with interest of California taxpayers
  • There are allegations of "bad science" on the part of the CaFCP from NREL data, and it calls the CaFCP a lobbying group
  • There are allegations of a conflict of interest of the prime awardee of the grants, FirstElement Fuel

While articles like this are not new, this article tries to directly influence the CEC and is being used by the EV supporters to discredit FCEVs. The CaFCP has released a short statement about the GHG efficiency of FCEVs, while we're told NREL/DOE will not respond.

Sandy Thomas, a hydrogen analyst and longtime friend to the NHA, has developed a response to the article and sent it to the CEC (read the response here).

Staff does not see a role for the CHBC to play in this. However, because the letter may have an effect on the CEC and their award funding, I wanted to inform you about this issue and the response that followed.


Emanuel Wagner
Assistant Director | California Hydrogen Business Council
Tel.310-455-6095 x360 | Fax 202-223-5537 |