Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Strategic Long-Term Comprehensive Energy Policy

A Natural Gas/Electric Hybrid Vehicle

Updated on 9/12/2009 The energy policy below is updated from time-to-time and includes my thoughts, feedback from my blog readers and from readers. Significant revisions were made after reading Robert Hefner III's book The GET: Grand Energy Transition. Hefner's book is required reading for anyone interested in energy and 21st century energy policy. You can get more information on ordering The GET here:

STEP 1: Acknowledge the Problem

· Acknowledge the problem. No difficult problem can be solved until it is first acknowledged. US government and media need to honestly inform and educate the American people and policy makers at every level about the threat worldwide oil supply/demand realities pose to the US. The US uses 25% of worldwide oil supply, yet owns only 3% of the world's proven reserves. The US imports 70% of its oil, enriching unfriendlies such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran. We are going bankrupt in the process not to mention funding both sides of the "war on terror". Our currency is weak. Our addiction to oil and coal have led to three intolerable consequences: economic contraction, environmental destruction, and geostrategic tensions. These are the basics of the energy challenge facing America. The energy crisis needs to be attacked with realistic information and wise policy decisions. A strategic, long-term, comprehensive energy policy must be adopted, publicized, and executed. The basic components of such an energy policy are listed below.

· The basic top-level energy strategy can be summarized as: we need to use less dirty and expensive solid and liquids based energy (coal, imported oil) and more cleaner and cheaper US domestic gas energy (natural gas, wind, solar, and hydrogen).

· Create a National Energy Council to develop and speed the implementation of the top-level energy strategy stated above. The director of the NEC should report directly to the President as a member of the Cabinet.

· US energy policy must recognize the fact that natural gas is the only domestic fuel supply capable of being scaled-up within the next decade to meaningfully reduce American's foreign oil imports and CO2 emissions. America should become the world leader in CNG vehicles.

STEP 2: Conservation and Energy Efficiency

· Increase fuel-efficiency standards substantially and immediately.

· Increase gas guzzler green taxes and encourage non-gasoline powered vehicles via increased tax rebates.

· Impose a top speed limit of 60 mph nationwide.

· Adopt four-day workweeks wherever and whenever it makes sense.

· Conservation and efficiency guidelines should be issued by federal, state, and local governments.

STEP 3: Transportation Initiatives

· Have at least half of all American cars and trucks running on CNG by the year 2015.
This will be done by retrofitting existing vehicles to run on natural gas, and by increased production of CNG vehicles. Tax credits should cover conversion costs.

· Encourage and adopt natural gas/electric hybrid vehicles as the single best solution to reducing foreign oil imports and emissions. See the Toyota concept car above.

The "Phill" Home Garage Nat Gas Refueling Appliance

· We should focus on natural gas home refueling appliances like the "Phill" to enable home garage refueling of NGVs in the 130 million vehicles already residing in homes on the existing natural gas pipeline grid. Tax credits should cover the installation costs of a CNG home refueling appliance.

· Tax credits should be given to all gas stations on or near the existing natural gas grid so that these stations are required to provide natural gas refueling. Tax credits should also be available to businesses such that their employees can refuel with natural gas while at work.

· Substantial government assistance for US automakers to tool-up CNG and CNG/electric hybrid vehicle production. This government assistance will extend to the production of home refueling appliances in order to bring their costs down.

· Tax credits to build out natural gas refueling stations along the nation's interstate highway system.

· All government vehicle fleets should switch to NGV’s. Encourage local municipal use of natural gas (refuse pickup, buses, mass transit, etc). Develop the natural gas conversion kit market to convert existing gasoline powered vehicles to cleaner cheaper natural gas.

· Develop electric and natural gas powered mass transit for people and goods.

· Place a green tax on all imported oil and all coal usage. The revenue generated will go *only* toward building the natural gas, wind, solar, and electrical infrastructures needed to move toward a gas based energy society. The taxes should be ramped up over a 5 year period to allow for economic planning and adjustment.

STEP 4: Prioritize and Invest Sustainable and Green Energy Sources

· Abolish federal subsidies for the oil and coal industries.

· Abolish biofuel and ethanol mandates. They cause major distortions in the food chain, inflation, and impeed development of other more economic alternative energy sources.

· Eliminate the construction of any new coal power plants. Replace existing coal plants with more distributed natural gas electrical generation.

· Construct a trans-Canadian natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower-48.

· Begin a government sponsored “battery technology” program (similar to the successful Sematech organization for semi-conductor technology) in order to insure that the US is not only the leader (we are way behind now…) in battery research and design, but also in battery *manufacturing*.

· Invest in wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and tidal energy generation to power non-gasoline powered transportation solutions described in STEP 3 above.

· In order to use the power generated from the above non-oil sources to power automobile solutions, the natural gas & electric grid infrastructures must be updated and its capacity increased dramatically.

· The government must deem electric transmission lines a matter of national security and thereby invoke eminent domain in order to construct them as needed to deliver solar and wind energy from source to consumption.

· Wind and solar power generation of hydrogen via electrolysis as a storage mechanism for calm and cloudy days. Hydrogen power generation needs encouragement.

· Streamline the permitting and construction of LNG terminals on both US coasts.

· Streamline the permitting and construction of latest generation nuclear power plants.

· Open the continental shelf and Alaska to natural gas drilling. The royalties on these resources will help fund other components of this energy plan.

· Abolish import taxes on Brazilian ethanol.

· Increase funding for hydrogen fusion research and development.

STEP 5: Social Iniatives

· Encourage local sustainability in energy generation, food production, and transportation.

· Encourage population control through education.

· Encourage green power education, business, and industry.

· The US voting public should demand energy accountability by its political leadership.


Bron said...

"...thinking their blogs will be read (but are not)..."

I'm reading you Mike. In Australia the majority of suburbs are 1/4 acre blocks, which in the 1950s usually had a vege garden and some fruit trees on it. Now we truck food all over the place.

Bron said...

"...thinking their blogs will be read (but are not)..."

I'm reading you Mike. In Australia most suburban houses are on 1/4 acre block, which in the 1950s usually had a vege garden and fruit trees on it. Now we truck our food all over the country.

Anonymous said...

to conservation i would add installing roundabouts wherever possible. we would save millions of gallons of gas a day from not having vehicles sitting idling away.
not to mention the electric we would save by ripping out all those traffic lights. get rid of a bunch of stop signs, reduce road rage, and reduce global warming and....... on and on

Steve said...

Good plan. But I think you should add nuclear power, unless I missed it in your bullet points.

Anyone with half a brain who looks at the trends, can see that oil demand will outstrip supply.

If folks think previous wars were about oil, just wait.

Louis said...

Great plan. I too would vote for nuclear. In 1941 my faculty advisor urged me to concentrate on fuel chemistry especially coal. At that time a coal liquid product had already been used to power aircraft engines. War intervened, and the navy wanted me to study nuclear. I ended in an auto engine plant, which was fun.

Anonymous said...

Good plan overall. A few things you've missed and a few areas of disagreement:

1. 60mph is too low, no one would obey it. Modern cars (as opposed to brick-shaped SUVs) get good mileage even at 65mph.

2. Hydrogen's a loser. There's too much energy lost in producing it via electrolysis, and there's no good way to get it to consumers. Tankage issues make it impractical for vehicles. It leaks out of all containers and pipelines because of the small molecules. Hydrogen can be produced more efficiently (though still wastefully) using a nuclear thermal process. To the extent that we have any hydrogen production, it would make more sense to use it to produce ammonia for fertilizer instead of nat gas, and, if we've still got more hydrogen, to use it as an input to processes such as refineries or your coal-to-liquids plants to increase the yield of lighter hydrocarbons without CO2 emissions.

3. Hydrogen is not a good way to bank power from intermittent renewables because of high round-trip losses. But you're right to recognize (as few others do) that we badly need a way to store power from wind and solar. There are point solutions based on local geographic conditions, but nothing that can be scaled out nationwide. This one issue is so important, it dwarfs all the others - yet no one talks about it.

4. Also among your initiatives, we need to stretch our nuclear fuel supply and reduce the amount of waste. End the reprocessing ban, and put some of your research dollars into next-gen reactors that can burn the 99% of uranium we're currently throwing away, and the thorium we don't currently use.

5. My understanding is that we're already building the gas pipeline from Alaska, and an LNG plant just opened in Mexico (because we're too prissy to open one in California).

6. Coal-to-liquids will still pump a lot of CO2 into the air. Plus it will hasten the depletion of our coal reserves. Save that idea as a desperation measure if the other ideas don't pan out.

7. The population recommendation is best left out of the plan, and is unnecessary anyway. US birth rate is already below replacement. Our population is growing only because of immigration.

Anonymous said...

The subject of peak oil has been discussed extensively in the media and it's very evident people do not want to make the hard decisions necessary to address the problem. Consequently, the world is heading towards a global catastrophe of a scale not seen since World War 2. As time passes the price of oil will rise so much that many people will simply be denied access to oil. What makes this so sad is we knew that eventually oil would become scarce and yet we did nothing.

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that hydrogen is not needed as a means of storing energy during times when the wind or the sun are not at peak efficiency.

Solar thermal generation systems, which use the sun's heat rather than light to generate electricity, can make use of molten salt both as a transmission fluid and a storage medium. Molten salt is apparently the most efficient medium for storing heat.

If you google you will find plenty of sites detailing the process - mirrors and power towers focus sunlight on pipes carrying molten salt, and part of the molten salt goes towards heating water for steam turbines, while part of it is stored in reservoirs for use at night or during cloudy weather.

Dennis said...

I would suggest changing most stop signs to yield signs and stop giving tickets for rolling stops.

Anonymous said...

Check out Alan Drake's comprehensive proposal posted on The Oil Drum to gain huge efficiencies by expanding and electrifying the railroads:

Consider expanding your one-line proposal.

Considering the efficiencies Drake lays out, the Pickens Plan's defect is that it perpetuates obsolete "big-rig" truck transport, which is both fuel inefficient and a destroyer of highways.

Anonymous said...

I would like to use the vast amount of new workforce and assembly plants that the auto companies are leaving in their wake to build the energy fields during this recession.

stop the ripple effect in it's tracks and allow the auto industry to downsize as needed.(remember WWII) we needed planes then, we need windmills and such now.

when the auto industries recover with their groundbreaking motors and batteries. we'll be able to charge them in a renewable grid at night.

Wouldn't you call that an enormous storage device?(all car batteries across nation when not in use)

if the grid in your area has a blackout, maybe you could use your car. natural gas for the alternator assist engine.

Anonymous said...

From A.D. Part I
Look, I proposed upping the speed limit to 60 way back when it was 55. Reducing it to 65 in states that post limits of 70 or higher is a better idea in these modern times.

What we really need is stricter enforcement on highways. I drive between 70-73 in 65 zones. I never get pulled over. Vehicles of all sizes still whiz by me at 80 or higher. They must get away with it enough to make it worth the risk. I rarely see speeders get a ticket in MA. However, NH state cops are a bit more aggressive. They leave me alone, but go after people doing 80 or so.

I like how FL controls speeders. The rest of the nation should follow their example. In FL, they have at least a dozen cops in squad cars or on motorcycles covering a few mile stretch of highway. I've seen at least 6 vehicles pulled over within a few mile stretch a couple times when down there. And still, there were enough cops freed up to keep speeders under check. Speeding fines are stiff in FL. I'm sure FL cops raise plenty of revenue and earn their keep, thanks to idiots who resume speeding once past a nailed speeder.

As much as I hate the idea, electronic warnings and traps that can identify vehicles would keep most of us at reasonable speeds on highways.

Anonymous said...

A.D. Part II
We're on the verge of producing a battery pack capable of propelling a commuter vehicle over 150 miles on a 5 minute recharge. Once we reach a threshold close to that, fully electric vehicles will begin overtaking plug-in hybrids, even though plug-ins will be able to go at least three times as far without stopping for fuel or a recharge.

Why will this happen? A fully electric vehicle needs no engine and none of the supporting components. With the elimination of the engine, fuel tank, radiator, and exhaust system, fully electric vehicles will be less complex, less expensive, lighter, and have more space available for additional battery packs and luggage.

Service stations should be in the process of replacing gas pumps with recharging stations during the transition from plug-in hybrids to fully electric vehicles. We should be able to recharge a vehicle using a credit card at a station. Even if it takes 10 minutes for the whole process for every 100 miles traveled, it'll be worth it for most people.

Needless to say, gasoline use will be down significantly in a world full of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric vehicles.

Anonymous said...

From A.D. Part III
I'm especially high on modern nuclear power. I'm assuming that most of you aren't quite up to snuff on the latest breakthroughs in nuclear plant technology. I had no idea how much it had advanced until last week. I'm especially blown away by Hyperion Power Generation's mini-nuke module. Do yourselves a favor and visit their site.

Also, type the words "mini nuclear plants" in a Google box and visit several of the links offered for a better perspective on where nuclear power technology is headed and who the players are. Until I read the information on several nuclear power sites, I had no idea how clean, safe, efficient, and inexpensive modern plants and mini-modules have become (if claims are accurate). For example, Hyperion's mini-nuke module is about the size of a garden shed. At that size, it can supposedly power 20,000 average homes for at least 5 years at a total cost of $2500 per household. (To put it in perspective, 10,000 of these mini-nukes could power the equivalent of 200 million homes for 5 years.) The module itself has no moving parts and is buried underground. It can't melt down or create any type of emergency situation. The waste amounts to about the size of a softball in 5 years and is said to be a "good candidate for recycling" (whatever that means) and can't be used to make a nuclear weapon if anyone managed to steal some from a storage or recycling facility. (About 2000 softballs worth of waste a year would be created if 10,000 of these mini-plants were up and running.) The power created by the module is transferred to an above-ground steam turbine generator. Apparently, no low-level nuclear waste is created in the process.

I'm not suggesting we drop everything and go nuclear. What we need to do is investigate modern nuclear technology and determine how it can best serve us. For example, mini-nukes are great for isolated areas. They're also great in clusters. Ten Hyperion mini-modules can power up to 200,000 average homes. If a mini-nuke installation makes more sense in a particular area than a wind farm, so be it.

Anonymous said...

What is your take on the recent events in regard to and Honda?

the_fitzman said...

i think honda wised up and nixed the deal just in time. honda is sitting on a gold mine with the Civic GX and the "Phill". they just need someone in marketing (me) to turn this huge strategic advantage into profits. just the fact that honda considered selling Fuelmaker to pickens' CNLE means their management doesn't have a grip on the strategic advantage they have in NGVs. most honda dealers dont even bundle the "Phill" with the Civic GX!


fireofenergy said...

I can't believe someone said "We need stricter enforcement (of the speed limits)" I guess he's a cop.

What we need is nuclear fission based on thorium (not uranium), it is between twice and one thousand times better and safer. (The LFTR seems to be the best but needs to be redeveloped).

But if society wimps out on that one, being that "everyone" is afraid of anything at all nuclear (as I am with uranium), then we need to do the massive desert mirrors thing. It would take about a fifth of the Mojave along with extra lines (and higher costs). However, if they bulldoze that much space, the great dust bowl would wipe out all that infrastructure!

Also, if they "First Solared" it, all the black PV would absorb too much heat. This is why only mirrors are acceptable for such a massive expance of land.

Salt water greenhouses should be used (in the deserts) to distill fresh water and to grow more crops (and for cleaning mirrors).

The nuclear thorium option could easily do all this and more without the hassle of the extra infrastructure, however, more jobs would be created by the mirrors option...

David said...

In addition to the excellent points made here I would draw your attention to the progress in air-source heat pumps.
The latest CO2 versions can operate down to very low temperatures, meaning that in the US extremes of climate can be coped with without needing to go to the great expense of ground source heat pumps:
As I mentioned on 'Seeking Alpha', I am a big fan of liquid fluoride thorium reactors, and use of that technology with heat pumps could free natural gas for transport.

BTW, good blog!

Anonymous said...

If you take the French system having large scale nuclear power and high speed rail, add in sufficient CSP capacity to cover cooling demands, make up whats left with an equal capacity of wind and CCGT.

With lots of wind, solar and nuclear in the grid you will have times of high output with low demand. During these times small amounts of hydrogen can be made through electrolysis and added to natural gas to create Hythane which burns very lean and is ideal for use in a range extender.

Don't bother with dedicated biofuels, much easier to go straight from sunlight to electricity, or directly to heat on a building.
Make use of biogas digesters to recycle waste, with a simple pretreatment process a digester can break down cellulosic materials.

PHEV-20, heat pumps, insulation and increased electric rail capacity can cut energy consumption dramatically.

Anonymous said...

Everyones ideas posted here are excellent and seems to be comminq from people that are familiar with the details needed to make the process work. Everyone is altruistic in their desire here to help America solve this problem, Its just too bad people cant stay that way when the money starts to fly and people start to bend over their fellow Americans

Anonymous said...

Can somebody answer a question that is beinq seriously forqotten???
What happens to these batteries (lithium) or otherwise when either the car is wrecked, brokendown, or at the end of their usefull life???
Im not quessinq these batteries (EMENSE BATTERIES) are considered qreen batteries in our landfills. I know someone know an answer out there

the_fitzman said...

hello anonymous...wrt your battery end of life question, i have an upstream one: where are the materials going to come from to build a massive battery infrastructure to begin with? i have read studies that say one of the biggest problems with depending on a fully EV strategy is that the world simply doesnt have enough material to build all the large battery banks needed, or, even if it did, the cost would become prohibitive. that is one reason why i keep pushing the natural gas/electric hybrid as the single best solution. the battery requirements are much reduced, the emissions are much lower than gasoline and are acceptable, and it would be cost efficient.

the_fitzman said...

wrt to the comment about "small amounts of hydrogen" being generated in off-peak hours, do you say this because of a water limitation? otherwise, if water were plentiful, very *large* amounts of hydrogen could be generated via electrolysis. another option is molten salt to store the heat, and later using the heat to generate steam when demand picks up. i originally thought this would be prohibitively expensive, but someone sent me a report once showing that it is closer to being economical than my gut told me it would be. thanks.

Jim_Mac said...

Agree with several of your points, Mike. We have the 2nd largest natural gas reserves in the world next to Russia and the 2nd largest coal reserves in the world next to China. I believe BOTH resources should be used as a short to intermediate-term measure to reduce our dependency on nations that do the US harm. Consider that the top 5 countries from which we import oil are Canada, Mexico, Saudia Arabia, Venezeula and Nigeria. (May not be in that exact order). From a pragmatic standpoint, I believe that we should continue to import oil from Mexico and Canada to meet our energy needs indefinately. Those that carry Loonies and Pesos really dont do us much harm. But I would argue that we should work to reduce and quickly eliminate importing oil from Nigeria, Saudia Arabia and Venezuela. I believe we should reduce CO2 emissions over the long-term, but our nation's security should take priority. There are are already companies that can liquify coal and other feedstocks into ultra low sulfur diesel and jetfuel like Renteck (RTK). We need a pragmatic plan to use the resources we have to reduce our malignant dependency now, and to move to reduce CO2 over the long-term.

Disclaimers: I own RTK. I like burritos, hockey, and to drive faster than 60 mph. And I think Chavez is a complete moron.

Anonymous said...

Obama needs to wake up and realize that natural is the future of this country for the next one hundred years. By putting his support behind natural gas, Obama would pave the way for our nation to be nearly free from oil imports within the next ten years. The billions being sent oil rich countries each month would stay here in the U.S. Natural gas is a win,win for everyone. I wish our president realize the tremendous benefits of natural gas for our country. If he did he would be considered a hero by many Americams!

Mike Young
Wasington, PA

Anonymous said...

The government will be the biggest blocker of fuel efficiency standards and renewable energy sources. Tax revenues are generated from gasoline purchases at the pump and electric bills. The government does not want to lose any source of taxes, how else can it afford bailouts?

Anonymous said...

Waiting for others to wake up: in the mean time, I've found that blowing summer air through the basement and into the house provides cheap cooling, and decreases (after a few years) heating costs due to the warming of the soil. Use a dehumidifer, maybe one of those that provides hot water preheating at the same time. Search on "annualized geo solar" or ("self heating" AND building) for more possibilities.

A back yard garden limited to supplying the household has one of the biggest ROI known.

There are other profitable things we can do while we wait on the big shots to start thinking and doing.

Brian H said...

Hey, Jim;
Oil imports can only be reduced in bulk, not from particular sources. Fugible means it's all a liquid in one basin. If you choose to dip from one corner instead of another, it makes no difference. Any oil you buy from X instead of Y puts exactly the same quantity from Y onto the world market to replace the extra draw you made from X.

So it doesn't even matter if you could track the provenance of every drop you bought. It would have zero effect on the places/sources you were "boycotting". It might make you feel better, but would probably just end up costing you more because of the extra work done in such futile bookkeeping.

Anonymous said...

One acronym. CNG or LNG.

The good news, this has finally started. I'm an automotive engineer, and worked on hybrids since the mid 90's. Hybrids are by design a compromise. CNG is something we can do right now, effortlessly and economically. Besides there is very little global warming impact.

The good news with CNG is that all existing vehicles can be addressed.

Anonymous said...

W O R K F A S T.............