"...Mr. Pickens has his opponents, including FedEx CEO Fred Smith, who favors electrification of the transporation fleet. Mr. Smith argues that hybrids are the way to go, and is putting his money where his mouth is. With 80,000 motorized vehicles, FedEx now boasts the largest fleet of commercial hybrid trucks in North America.

Without naming Mr. Pickens, the company’s director of sustainability, Mitch Jackson, upped the ante on Sunday with a blog item blasting natural gas as transport fuel of the future. After citing a list of reasons against using natural gas instead of diesel, Mr. Jackson concludes that 'substituting one fossil fuel for another may mean we’re shifting our energy supply, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going anywhere.'

Mr. Pickens then let rip with a rebuttal that accuses Mr. Jackson of making a 'flawed argument' by misunderstanding the country’s natural-gas reserves and overstating the value of diesel hybrids.

'Not only does Jackson need to do more homework on the domestic availability and clean air benefits of natural gas,' Mr. Pickens writes in his Daily Pickens blog, 'he needs to realize that deploying vehicles that use slightly less foreign oil - vehicles that have little testing or are not available in the marketplace – will not solve America’s energy crisis.'"


It will be interesting to see how this effects future purchases by companies utilizing large fleets of trucks. It seems Fed Ex's argument is slightly flawed...the fact is, they are still using foriegn oil, just further delaying the inevitable. I can see how these hybrids could serve as a "bridge" as a transition occurs over the next x number of years. Mitch Jackson, Fed Ex's Guy, states that refitting fueling stations would be too burdensome but that we should instead "electrify a substantial portion of surface transportation using hybrid electrics, electric and plug-in electric vehicles." How is the latter not more difficult to achieve?

Fed Ex's Argument

Boone's Argument

Of course, ultimately, both of these have yet to be proven.

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Tags: gas, natural, trucks

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Comment by Les B on January 13, 2009 at 21:41
Just a follow-up on transmission line capacity. I saw a recent presentation on how to increase line capacity. The issue is line temperature and "droop". Many lines are built with very conservative factors to avoid too much line droop. If we can implement better monitoring technology then it may be possible to operate transmission lines at higher thruput levels or with less "cushion".
Comment by JaV on January 13, 2009 at 14:33
All these big "dogs"(OIL GUYS)has ideals but us littlle people will still pay at the pumps no matter what fuel.the price of autos will go higher so so what is the saving.clean air? not a chance,american is just DREAMER/HOPPER.OK
Comment by CaddoKid on January 13, 2009 at 13:04
"Bush said when he ran first that we were running on a two lane grid when it comes to electrical transmission, when we needed to be on an 8 lane grid.

*A typically feeble Bush analogy, but possibly one of his closest brushes with the truth. He then spent 8 years draining the national coffers with doing a thing about it. Yes, the electrical grid needs upgrading and modernizing, but that will have to happen even without increasing production of PHEVs.

"Have you seem any big power line projects being build since 2000?"
*Hell yes, they're being ugraded all over town in Austin, TX. And the transcos are building new 345 KVA transmission lines from growing wind farms in west Texas right now.

"How are you going to plug all those electric cars into a grid that is running on the two lane road?"
Well, this is where your analogy breaks down. Plug-in HEVs will place the vast majority of their demand on the grid AT NIGHT, when demand is low. This is actually good for the electric turbines because it flattens the load curve, and the turbines are always most efficient when they're loaded. They have to run 24 hours anyway; they may as well be satisfying a demand, and generating revenue for the provider. As the electrical grid is modernized, homes will be outfitted with inverters to allow distributed generation technologies like solar pv, small wind turbines, and microturbines to feed back into the grid and slow your electric meter or even run it backwards. A community full of PHEVs plugged into the grid act as a giant capacitor, providing instant energy to cover a blackout or brownout caused by a 4 AM lighting strike knocking out a transformer in your neighborhood.

"I listen to AM talk radio..."
*I can tell.

" and you can tell when a power line is pushing too much power because it escapes and causes static on the radio airwaves."
*Misconception addressed by Willbilly.

"The problem with the electrical grid is in transmission lines and distribution lines being incapable of transporting the electricity needed to flow to the customers."
*Yes, transmission needs upgrading, with or without PHEVs. PHEV demand can already be covered by idle overnight supply as described above.

"How much do you think that it would cost to upgrade?"
*It will cost plenty, with or without PHEV demand. With a second "peak' demand at night, GenCos will have the additional revenue they'll need to help finance the upgrades.

"Look at the prices on this site for buying pipeline right-of-way, is the electrical ROW any different?
* In most cases, they won't have to buy new right of way, as you suggest (unless they would have to anyway, to supply a new subdivision, for example) because they ALREADY OWN or lease the ROW.

"The cost of offloading an LNG tank is no different than a propane tank at a gas station."
*I brought up LNG to illustrate that the economics of energy non-dense methane confines it regional markets. There are whole areas of the US with no natural gas supplies, and it's infeasible to build buried pipeline to serve those areas from areas with a supply. LNG becomes marginally economically feasible to those areas, only because building pipe infrastructure is so infeasible. It's expensive to compress CH4 to liquid, then transport it with lots more hydrocarbons, then vaporize it again. It's also maintenance intensive.

"You want to destroy more land by clearing more ROW?"
*I don't want to destroy more land anymore than you do. You think that running overhead electric has a bigger impact than burying pipeline?

"We could always have a fed mandate that under all transmission lines there will be corn grown for biofuels."
*Corn methanol is a terrible energy policy idea whose time has come (politically) and gone. It's a water, fertilizer and fossil intensive crop with a bad environmental impact, converting a needed food resource into a fuel with marginal energy impact.
Comment by Two Dogs, Pirate on January 13, 2009 at 10:48
Willbilly, haven't most of the major transmissions lines been bundled already to their maximum load capacity?
Comment by Gone Fishin on January 13, 2009 at 10:45
As with any new ideas, there is a transition phase. Overhead power lines are ancient technology. The newest thing is home generation, whether by solar, wind, or the newest fuel cell technology. As I understand it a comany out of california has a unit that you tie in your natural gas line and out comes electricity and clean water. Zero emissions. Now how much cleaner can you get. This solves both problems. No more wires, no more gasoline/diesel or at least much less. No burning of natural gas. And a huge new industry of home generated power units. And you can plug in your car and charge it too. http://web-japan.org/trends/science/sci030723.html
Comment by Willbilly on January 13, 2009 at 10:20
As an engineer I am glad to see that most of the posts here are covering some of the technical aspects of energy distribution that seem to be skipped over by the mass media. I would like to point out a couple of thimgs about power distribution. While there may not be that many new power distribution lines under construction, the existing ones are constantly being upgraded. The capacitity of a transmission, or distribution line system can be increased by increasing the voltage, or increasing the wire size, or both. The lines are not overloaded, they have a maximum capacitity, and are protected by circuit breakers, just like your home wiring. The buzzing sound you hear on AM radio is usually caused by the arcing of a dirty or broken line insulator. It is energy that is being radiated, but is in the microvolt range. The power company surveys their lines on a regular basis looking for these types of problems It drives me crazy every time I see electric cars mentioned in the news as reducing our energy needs, or "not having to ever buy gas again". As was well pointed out here, electricity is a carrier of energy , not a source, it has to obtained by converting an actual energy source.
Comment by Les B on January 13, 2009 at 9:44
The real answer is it will take every available technology and alternative fuel supply to deal with replacing oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We just need the federal government to facilitate the advancement of available alternatives and not become a roadblock by trying to select one versus others. This is ther reason the new Low Carbon Fuel Standard being implemented in California will promote all forms of alternative fuels.

For heavy duty vehicles (large truck & bus fleets) LNG & CNG are excellent fuel supply options as the required fueling stations are limited and can be centralized. As fuelling stations become more widely available, conversions can be implemented on smaller fleets. For personal vehicles, plug-in hybrids and CNG would seem to be the best alternatives. Many people are more comfortable with the concept of plugging into an outlet in their garage than filling their tank with 3000 psi natural gas. Most of the vehicle recharging would occur at night during low power usage.

Both natural gas and electricity used as transportation fuel will ultimately promote and rely upon natural gas supply. The US is likely to move toward more renewables and natural gas generation for our power supply to decrease coal consumption. The renewables will require the construction of new combined-cycle gas fuelled power plants to provide back-up and firm the power supply.

We must develop plans now for replacing imported oil as world oil supply has essentially peaked and will begin to decline in the next 5-10 years.
Comment by Two Dogs, Pirate on January 12, 2009 at 23:18
Bush said when he ran first that we were running on a two lane grid when it comes to electrical transmission, when we needed to be on an 8 lane grid. Have you seem any big power line projects being build since 2000? How are you going to plug all those electric cars into a grid that is running on the two lane road? I listen to AM talk radio and you can tell when a power line is pushing too much power because it escapes and causes static on the radio airwaves. The problem with the electrical grid is in transmission lines and distribution lines being incapable of transporting the electricity needed to flow to the customers. How much do you think that it would cost to upgrade? Look at the prices on this site for buying pipeline right-of-way, is the electrical ROW any different? The cost of offloading an LNG tank is no different than a propane tank at a gas station. You want to destroy more land by clearing more ROW? We could always have a fed mandate that under all transmission lines there will be corn grown for biofuels.
Comment by CaddoKid on January 12, 2009 at 22:44
Fed Ex will win this argument. It makes more sense, both logistically and economically, to use increasing domestic production of NG for electrical generation to displace nasty coal. Rather than REPLACE the 22% NG contributes to electrical generation with solar and wind, as Pickens advocates, we should increase NG to the gen mix and add more solar and wind to displace even more filthy coal. Displacing dirty coal with NG cleans the grid, and renewables green the grid.

NG as a transportation fuel will lose because the infrastructure needs are too large to overcome, especially in this time and with this economy where so much existing infrastructure needs reinvestment . To support a national transit system, refueling stations nationwide would need retrofitting, a hugely expensive proposition. And while Pickens' plan focuses on NG for interstate commerce (trucks and trains- not your passenger auto- only about half the US public has existing residential gas service, so the refueling retrofit would need to be both widespread and local. But a more important reason to use CH4 in electrical generation rather than transportation is that electrical generation and the consumption of electricity in our homes and offices, keeping our buildings comfortable, contributes far more carbon to the atmosphere than transportation (about 49% vs 29%).

Keep in mind, too, that while NG is cleaner than diesel, it's still a hydrocarbon. It still emits CO2. And it's easier and cheaper to control the emission of CO2 from a powerplant than from tens of millions of mobile sources. Further, because NG is not "energy dense", compared to liquid hydrocarbons, it is bulky as a transportation fuel. This is why NG tends to be a regional fuel with a regional market... it's difficult to transport. It's why LNG economics are marginal before CNG markets become so. And while NG/electric hybrid vehicles would be the best for the environment, the space required for CNG tanks won't leave much cargo and passenger space with the bulky batteries of modern hybrids. Plug-in gasoline/electric hybrids are capable now of achieving 40 miles per day on a single charge. 75% of the commuting public drives less than 40 miles per day. That means that three quarters of the driving public could commute to work and home without burning ANY fossils. As the electric grid becomes progressively cleaner (through displacing grungy coal with natural gas) and greener (by generating with renewables) we reduce CO2 emissions more by driving gasoline PHEVs than by driving NGV, eventually converting transportation from fossils to renewables.

I know that producing, consuming and recycling large lithium-ion batteries is not cost-free environmentally speaking. But halting the carbonization of our atmosphere is the highest of all environmental priorities, IMO.

Comment by The ShaleRider on January 12, 2009 at 19:44
I am not as versed with hybrids as CNG, because I have specifically researched CNG due to the "Shale" being right under our feet. And because it's right under our feet in this area, I think we should benefit best by creating our own auto CNG market.

With the following, I do not see any serious competition between hybrid and CNG autos. If the cost of CNG and conversions to CNG are "a little high", the cost of a hybrid is "out of sight." There's no comparison...read the costs and energy problems linked to recharging the batteries found for hybrids.

The problem is we have no efficient means of storing the energy needed to run them. The batteries needed to meet this goal do not exist. There has been relatively little change in battery technology in over 200 years. In the last few years, we have made a few advances in battery technology mainly driven by mobile devices such as cell phones and laptops. These advances in battery technology are not readily adaptable to meet the demands of running vehicles. Until new types of batteries capable of storing the energy to meet the driving demands of the consumer appear, only the rich and tree huggers will buy them. Who wants to pay $40,000 for a hybrid Chevy Volt that normally costs $20,000 and will only travel 40 miles on a charge? In addition, there is the cost of the infrastructure needed to charge these vehicles. It does not exist. No research and proof exists that the electrical grid is able to handle the recharging of hybrid vehicles with the expediency of the task of converting or creating natural gas vehicles could be done.

Tesla Motors, the upstart electric-car company that’s become a darling of the eco set, opened its first auto showroom last week in Los Angeles. The opening party featured Hollywood stars and a shiny red version of the company’s fully electric $98,000 convertible roadster. Tesla is selling its metal on sex-appeal, not sacrifice. The two-seaters have luscious lines and, boasts the company’s Web site, go from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Tesla says its roadster goes 220 miles on a charge – a charge done on a special device at home.

Several electric cars have fizzled, notably General Motors’ EV1 (US$33,995 to US$43,995, but these prices were in 1999), which developed a cult following, largely in California and Arizona, but never developed a real business, in large part because a workable infrastructure of electric-charging stations didn’t develop.

Today’s electric-car developers hope they’ve learned from the past. Earlier this year, another California startup, Fisker Automotive, unveiled an $87,900 battery-powered luxury car (its cheapest model) that it says it hopes to begin delivering to customers in late 2009. The Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid, can go 50 miles on a charge before a small gasoline engine starts working to produce electricity to charge a battery pack on board. The car can get to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Both Tesla and Fisker have backing from California venture-capital firms.

But how will utilities handle the extra electricity demand from plug-in cars? And, if that electricity is produced by burning coal, will this shift to using the utilities' energy for recharging of batteries end up actually creating more emissions of greenhouse gases?

Now maybe I'm missing something, but this seems like a nobrainer to me. Now, spending an additional $5,000 or $6,000 for a CNG conversion to my full-sized, 6-person $18,000 car sounds like chicken feed compared to a $40,000 ___ to $80,000 ___ and to $98,000 for a 2-seater or very small sedan in a hybrid.

Let's get the CNG auto market going!

The ShaleRider

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