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  • Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

    http://solveclimate.com/blog/2008072...alf-right-plan

    Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan
    by Bill Becker - Jul 25th, 2008 in Clean Energy T. Boone Pickens wind energy wind power
    It does our heart good to see an oil tycoon spend his money to tell the truth. There’s too little of that today. But T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil billionaire, is investing $58 million on a television ad campaign (Youtube) to explain that we can’t drill our way out of the current energy crisis.

    Instead, he says, we should build wind farms from Texas to North Dakota, and install the transmission lines necessary to move the power to where we need it. That will liberate natural gas from its most common current use – generating electricity – and allow us to use it to power our vehicles, Pickens says.

    He’s right about the wind part and wrong about the best use of natural gas.

    In regard to wind, Pickens is proposing that America do what Texas is doing. Texas leads the nation in wind power. In a series of progressive actions in recent years, the state legislature established a renewable energy portfolio standard that was quickly achieved, and put a program in place to identify where the electric grid should be expanded to reach places where the wind blows most. Today, Texas is considering an investment of $6.4 billion to build new transmission capable of moving 17,000 megawatts of new wind power.

    Pickens doesn’t want to wait for the bureaucracy. He’s investing $2 billion to build the world’s largest wind farm and plans to pay for the transmission lines that will carry the power from the Texas panhandle to Dallas.

    A big wind plan would be good for the economy, particularly in the nation’s job-starved rural areas. Last time I checked, farmers and ranchers nationwide could earn $5,000 annually for each tiny piece of land they lease to host a turbine. There aren’t many crops – legal crops, at least – that can earn that kind of money.

    In windy Nolan County, Texas, wind power has created 1,000 new jobs and is expected to produce $315 million in revenues. In rural Colorado, the Danish wind manufacturer Vestas is building two plants to manufacture wind blades and towers, creating hundreds of new jobs. The company reportedly is manufacturing in the United States because wind turbines built with Euros would be too expensive in the U.S. market at today’s exchange rates; it may have picked Colorado because of Gov. Bill Ritter’s plan to build a "new energy economy."

    The biggest complaint about wind power – that it is an intermittent resource – can be solved with emerging storage technologies, including plug-in hybrid vehicles that recharge at night when the wind blows best and feed electricity back into the grid during the day when the vehicles are parked at home or work. That brings us to the second part of Pickens’ plan -- using natural gas to power vehicles rather than generation plants.

    Because we need to reduce carbon emissions, because we don’t have limitless supplies of domestic oil and gas, and because we would be stupid to allow even more dependence on foreign resources, domestic natural gas should be treated carefully as transition fuel to a sustainable low-carbon economy. Given the growing urgency for climate action, it makes sense to use natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels, to replace coal, the dirtiest.

    Pickens’ aspiration for natural gas is consistent with national policy today, but that policy needs to be revised. Natural gas in various forms – liquefied (LNG), compressed (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a byproduct of natural gas production and oil refining – is classified under federal law as one of the fuels we should be using more to cut oil imports.

    The Energy Policy Act of 1992 required large fleets to begin converting to a variety of alternative fuels, including natural gas. Today, there are about 130,000 natural gas vehicles (NGVs) on the road in the U.S. New vehicles built to use natural gas exclusively can receive federal tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $32,000, depending on the size of the vehicle. Some refueling capacity already is in place. The U.S. Department of Energy counts 785 refueling sites for CNG, 39 for LNG and more than 2,200 for LPG.

    Advocates of NGVs claim that with the right government support, natural gas could displace more than 10 billion gallons of gasoline equivalent by 2017. But given the evolution of electric vehicle technology and renewable power technologies, the question is whether personal transportation is the highest and best use of America’s natural gas supplies.

    It’s not. A better plan is to a) convert as many as possible of our existing coal-fired power plants to natural gas; b) convert our transportation fleet as quickly as possible to high-efficiency, low-emission vehicles powered principally by electricity; c) modernize our electric grid to reach and better accommodate wind and solar resources; d) launch an economy-wide clean energy surge that, among other things, gives us zero-net-carbon buildings by 2030 to reduce the growth in electricity demand; and e) invest in mass transit, high-speed rail and other measures to dramatically reduce the nation’s passenger vehicle miles.

    Smarter people than I need to run the numbers, but here are a few reasons why I think natural gas should replace coal while electricity replaces petroleum:

    Because natural gas produces fewer carbon emissions, utilities will be motivated to use it rather than coal once Congress puts a cap-and-trade regime in place. Assuming that utilities are permitted to trade carbon allowances, they’ll make more money using cleaner fuels.
    While there are high hopes for technology that will allow new coal plants to capture and store their carbon emissions in the future, existing conventional coal plants remain a substantial source of emissions. To achieve the emission reductions we need and do so quickly, we should begin converting existing coal plants to natural gas rather than depending solely on still-unproven carbon sequestration.
    Because natural gas is a finite fuel, big investments in new vehicles and fueling infrastructure will be stranded some day as the fuel becomes too expensive to compete with wind, solar and other emerging technologies. That’s a waste of money. It would be better spent on the transition objectives I listed above, including Pickens’ proposal for a massive investment in wind farms through the nation’s midsection and the transmission needed to move the power – an enterprise the Department of Energy estimates will cost $1.2 trillion.


    Pickens’ misstep on natural gas is useful in one sense: It demonstrates that we lack a well-conceived strategy for moving to a new energy economy. The principal objective of a national energy plan shouldn’t be to continue feeding the nation’s insatiable appetite for finite, carbon-intensive fuels. The objective should be a rapid shift away from those fuels in the most painless, permanent and cost-effective way possible.

    Getting coal out of our power system seems on its face to be an excellent step.

    Bill Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project
    Jim Younkin
    www.younkincng.com

  • #2
    Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

    Using the right technology a coal power plant could have very low SOx and NOx and virtually no particulate emissions. All it takes is flue gas treatment via a modern wet scrubber. Why not use our coal resources in a clean manner? I think abandoning coal would be a mistake.
    Adrian

    Navy 2008 Civic GX (wife's)
    Silver 2012 Toyota Prius
    Grey 2012 Civic Natural Gas (mine)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

      I also agree that abandoning coal woul dbe bad, as it is our primary domestic source of fossil energy. The author is making the assertion that coal is bad because of the carbon emmissions. I guess we'll just have to start dealing with the fact that most people now consider CO2 a pollutant.

      He is correct that overall wheel to well efficiency would be better by continuing to use the natural gas in power plants, and using electric cars. A combined cycle ng plant is far more efficient than even a CNG Hybrid platform would be. The fact that a majority of vehicle charging would be done at night where the NG power plants are currently turned down make this point even more important.

      I do think we should focus on using CNG vehicles where electric doesn't make sense, such as short and medium range trucking, as well as some locomotive uses (imagine a single gas turbine powered locomotive with 2 CNG storing drive cars replacing conventional 3 diesel engines). I think we would get a lot better return in focusing there than on the small passenger market.

      (The Russians have started experimenting with gas turbine on rail, using a LNG fueled locomotive that has over 11,000HP. This compared to the average 16 cylinder Diesel locomotive putting out 4,000 hp)
      Last edited by CraziFuzzy; 08-01-2008, 01:50 AM.
      1997 Factory Crown Victoria w/ extended tanks ~~ Clunkerized!
      2000 Bi-Fuel Expedition --> ~~ Sold ~~ <--

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

        The original story is WRONG when it says that using NG to produce electricity to charge plug-in hybrids or electric cars is the best use of NG. The reason is the massive losses in efficiency in each conversion. A NG power plant can produce electricity relatively efficiently, but producing electricity is already less efficient than using the NG directly for powering a car. NG is already portable and does not require refining or converting to be a portable form of power.

        When you make the electricity (which can't be stored efficiently) it goes to long distance power lines, distribution centers, short distance power lines, through numerous transformers losing efficiency at each step to get to your electric or plug-in hybrid car to charge your batteries. It then comes out of the battery and there are more losses when it is converted to rotational motion by the electric motor.

        A staggeringly low percentage (single digits) of the energy in the NG actually gets to the road through your plug-in hybrid or electric car where some 60% of the energy gets to the road when the fuel is burned directly in an NG car. So, even though burning NG produces CO2, it produces much less CO2 per vehicle mile than electric cars or plug-in hybrids.

        And a point which is seldom made -- some sources of NG are newable, like landfill gas and digester gas. Producers have been building small on-site power plants to use this energy source for decades. Some have started selling the NG to gas utilities instead of building and operating small power plants.

        If you seriously want to reduce CO2 per mile from small vehicles (and I don't think that will do any good anyway) you need to have a large CO2-free source of electricty close to the vehicles. In our lifetimes, you're talking nuclear.
        02 GX
        01 GX
        03 Crown Vic
        06 GX
        Home Fueler

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

          I'm more concerned with pollutants that have been proven to be harmful such as NOx and SOx.

          In my opinion CO2 emissions and global warming are not something we should attempt to correct on a national basis without global cooperation (China, India, Russia, etc.) I for one am unwilling to pay the increase in price of energy associated with addressing global warming nationally or in my case at state level. CA's latest AB 32 provisions are going to be a huge waste of money and will impact the local economy negatively for practically no global impact. If there is global cooperation, use the coal in coal to H2 power plants and sequestrate the CO2 into the ground.

          I see my self as a practical person. Environmentalism is good....I like breathing cleaner air as much as the next guy....but not taken to the extreme where as a state or nation we incur huge costs for NO BENEFITS....other than Mr. Gore's approval. (which I don't care about and who apparently can't get his science straight.)
          Adrian

          Navy 2008 Civic GX (wife's)
          Silver 2012 Toyota Prius
          Grey 2012 Civic Natural Gas (mine)

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

            Originally posted by freedml View Post
            The original story is WRONG when it says that using NG to produce electricity to charge plug-in hybrids or electric cars is the best use of NG. The reason is the massive losses in efficiency in each conversion. A NG power plant can produce electricity relatively efficiently, but producing electricity is already less efficient than using the NG directly for powering a car. NG is already portable and does not require refining or converting to be a portable form of power.

            When you make the electricity (which can't be stored efficiently) it goes to long distance power lines, distribution centers, short distance power lines, through numerous transformers losing efficiency at each step to get to your electric or plug-in hybrid car to charge your batteries. It then comes out of the battery and there are more losses when it is converted to rotational motion by the electric motor.

            A staggeringly low percentage (single digits) of the energy in the NG actually gets to the road through your plug-in hybrid or electric car where some 60% of the energy gets to the road when the fuel is burned directly in an NG car. So, even though burning NG produces CO2, it produces much less CO2 per vehicle mile than electric cars or plug-in hybrids.
            It's hard to believe that 60% number. You'd be hard pressed to have any ICE vehicle over about 40% efficient, at optimal conditions. This is mostly because the engine has to be designed to operate over extreme variable rpm and power ranges. A gas turbine, on the other hand, operates at a specific RPM, and usually operates at 80% or above power level. This provides a LOT more efficiency. Modern Combined Cycle Power plants are pushing near 85% overall efficiency. Emmissions controls are also considerably more effective at a large power plant than in a mobile platform. Battery charging/discharging averages about 80% efficiency. The only major losses come in the form of distribution losses. In the end, I firmly believe that the electric vehicle from a modern NG power plant is on par, if not more efficient than a CNG vehicle, and, because of the improved emmisions controls at the power plant, produces even less HARMFUL pollution.

            That being said, i stand by my earlier comment that in larger transportation methods, CNG is still better, because of the impracticality of electric. This is the semi and locomotive market i was talking about.

            The other option is a CNG series hybrid, which gains some of the efficiencies of the gas turbine, in that the turbine or small ICE can be purpose designed for a tight power and rpm range, which WOULD push that 60% number you were talking about.
            1997 Factory Crown Victoria w/ extended tanks ~~ Clunkerized!
            2000 Bi-Fuel Expedition --> ~~ Sold ~~ <--

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

              Ok, so let's say a GX is only 40% efficient.

              You have an NG power plant that's 80% efficient, I'll take your 80% for the charge and 80% for the discharge even though I think those are high (60-70% for most systems and that is for new batteries with slow charging). So, .8x.8x.8 is already down to 52% efficiency and there is nothing in there for the power distribution system or the efficiency of the motor in the electric vehicle.

              I think my case is better than yours, and the technology is in production and is being sold to the public, not on the drawing board.
              02 GX
              01 GX
              03 Crown Vic
              06 GX
              Home Fueler

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                Bill Becker is the Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project
                This guy is one of the reasons CNG is not moving forward. Sure electric cars are a great solution, but affordable highway-legal speed cars are not available yet.
                BLUE 09 GX

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                  I am curious about these efficiency numbers that you have as I seem to recall that a power plant is about 35% efficient (35% of the heat goes into electricity, the rest of the heat is wasted) whereas an ICE is around 20% - 25% efficient. I think that the efficiency of electricity distribution is about 90% - 95% efficient meaning that the 5% - 10% is wasted as heat as the electricity travels down the unideal (non-superconductor) power lines. These rough numbers do give electric cars an apparent advantage but I am curious about the batteries as Lithium Ion batteries seem to be incredibly expensive.

                  About the easiest way I can tell about how much energy and resources it takes to produce something is the cost. A Prius sure does cost a lot of money and you don't get a big car for the price either. This translates to me as higher cost of material production (add in what ever it takes to produce - design, raw materials, etc).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                    Those numbers argue even more for using NG directly in cars.

                    CNG engine: 20% efficient

                    NG making electricity, transport on the grid, charge a battery, discharge battery, use the electricity in a motor (I found a reference that rates that Prius electric engine efficiency about 85% and electric grid distribution at an average of 93% nationwide):

                    .35*.8*.8*.93*.85=18% efficent

                    So, using NG directly in a car is 10% more efficient than making electricity and charging an electric car. Not only that, but the infrastructure is vastly less, and you can refill the car in a minute or two versus hours to charge a car battery. Case closed?
                    02 GX
                    01 GX
                    03 Crown Vic
                    06 GX
                    Home Fueler

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                      Originally posted by freedml View Post
                      Those numbers argue even more for using NG directly in cars.

                      CNG engine: 20% efficient

                      NG making electricity, transport on the grid, charge a battery, discharge battery, use the electricity in a motor (I found a reference that rates that Prius electric engine efficiency about 85% and electric grid distribution at an average of 93% nationwide):

                      .35*.8*.8*.93*.85=18% efficent

                      So, using NG directly in a car is 10% more efficient than making electricity and charging an electric car. Not only that, but the infrastructure is vastly less, and you can refill the car in a minute or two versus hours to charge a car battery. Case closed?

                      That 35% generation efficiency is incredibly off. That is accurate for an old gas fired boiler driven steam plant. A modern Combined Cycle power plant (Gas Turbine with Steam heat recovery) is 60-85% efficient (BTU's in to MWh out). Using the rest of your numbers, that 30-43% overall efficiency, putting it on par, if not slightly ahead of CNG ICE. As stated earlier, the added benefit of consolidated emmissions, I think, gives the edge to electric.

                      Of course, this is all assuming 100% modern NG power plants. The aggregate mix of future power generation would be cleaner than this, as it is dilluted by hydro, nuclear, and wind.
                      1997 Factory Crown Victoria w/ extended tanks ~~ Clunkerized!
                      2000 Bi-Fuel Expedition --> ~~ Sold ~~ <--

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                        In defending the electric from an efficiency standpoint I must point out that the electric, unlike a non-hybrid NGV, can also use regenerative braking (think Hybrid) to recapture energy lost in stopping the vehicle. Also, in my own case, it costs a lot less to "fuel" my electrics then it does to fuel my NGV's. However, I think we could all agree on one thing---ANY change away from the gasoline powered vehicles the majority of Americans are driving would be a vast improvement. I see the kind of arguements posted here all the time pitting one technology against the other (in this case NGV against electric). There are so many variables in determining which is the best energy source why not develop and use both. Either technology gives us less dependence on imported oil, lower emissions and lower energy costs. I own and have driven both technologies for some time and they each offer advantages based on their application. So even if the Pickens plan is half right, it is half better then doing nothing. The average consumer buys only price and will not pay for the better product or technology unless there is a compelling reason for him to do it. High or unstable fuel prices aren't enough to make the change if there isn't an alternative on the showroom floor. People are changing their attitudes and are downsizing for now--into smaller gasoline powered vehicles and driving less. But a small drop in fuel prices will bring a majority back to their old habits if there isn't an alternative out there that they can see, touch and drive. Time will tell.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                          35% efficiency of a power plant is not incredibly off. The most efficient engine there is is the hypothetical Carnot Heat Engine - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnot_cycle

                          In order to get the most efficiency out of a power plant (at most around 70%), the temperature differential has to be on the order of 700 degrees celsius. Here is a tasty read about the heat engine and the laws of thermodynamics:

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_engine

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                          • #14
                            Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                            Steve, the Carnot cycle applies to heat engines alone. A combined cycle power plant is not a heat engine (though there is one involved). Conventional boiler/steam-turbine power plants are indeed limited to about 35% efficiency. However, a gas turbine is NOT a boiler. The gas turbine by itself can turn over 60% of the energy put in as gas into rotational force used to drive the generator. You then get about 35% of the resulting waste heat (this is the heat engine part) for use in the heat recovery boiler that then drives the steam turbine.
                            1997 Factory Crown Victoria w/ extended tanks ~~ Clunkerized!
                            2000 Bi-Fuel Expedition --> ~~ Sold ~~ <--

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Mr. Pickens’ Half-Right Plan

                              Originally posted by Adrian View Post
                              I'm more concerned with pollutants that have been proven to be harmful such as NOx and SOx.

                              In my opinion CO2 emissions and global warming are not something we should attempt to correct on a national basis without global cooperation (China, India, Russia, etc.) I for one am unwilling to pay the increase in price of energy associated with addressing global warming nationally or in my case at state level. CA's latest AB 32 provisions are going to be a huge waste of money and will impact the local economy negatively for practically no global impact. If there is global cooperation, use the coal in coal to H2 power plants and sequestrate the CO2 into the ground.

                              I see my self as a practical person. Environmentalism is good....I like breathing cleaner air as much as the next guy....but not taken to the extreme where as a state or nation we incur huge costs for NO BENEFITS....other than Mr. Gore's approval. (which I don't care about and who apparently can't get his science straight.)
                              I agree that we would need global cooperation. I'm sure for every 1 clean burning coal fired power plant in the world there are 50 more like this one in the picture below:



                              I just took this picture of a major power plant in July at Manzanillo, Mexico where they don't think much about emission controls. Most cars over there don't have catalytic converters either. It's kinda hard though to get everybody on Earth to see things in the same light. This is the gran problema
                              Last edited by josch; 08-04-2008, 11:21 AM. Reason: poor grammer

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