The questionable benefit of natural gas vehicles

  • Chicago (IL) - T. Boone Pickens did not look not so green after the LA Times busted him for funding California’s Prop 10. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal decided they too wanted to dig into the matter and revealed some interesting details.

    The proposition, which would offer thousands of dollars worth of rebates to purchasers of natural gas vehicles, is estimated to cost California $9.8 billion over the next 30 years and would be supplied through money paid by taxpayers. The Wall Street Journal states that if the prop passes, then it would lead to the manufacturing of about a million natural gas vehicles for California. If the prop does not pass, then the supporters of natural gas vehicles will have to compete against cleaner alternatives such as electric vehicles - for the $840 million in funds offered under law AB 118.

    On the surface, natural gas cars seem alright, but the topic becomes a bit different when these cars are competing against “zero emission” alternatives such as electric cars that are powered utilizing a solar grid.

    The greatest issue concerning the funding of natural gas vehicles is not only their questionable benefits when it comes to the reduction of emissions. Additionally, there exists an issue with supply and national security with natural gas vehicles. The Wall Street Journal quoted a California Energy Commission: “When natural gas replaces gasoline, greenhouse gases are reduced by just 20 to 30%. When natural gas is used instead of diesel in trucks, greenhouse gases are reduced just 10 to 20%. If diesel is almost comparable, then it makes more sense to fund that as a stop gap as that infrastructure is already in place.

    The article also explains that the benefits to natural gas vehicles over gasoline vehicles have dropped in the past two decades as new combustion engines are being manufactured to be more efficient and cleaner.

    The Wall Street Journal claims that Chesapeake Energy CEO, Aubrey McClendon and Pickens have spent a combined $3.7 million to support the proposition. Pickens was previously isolated, and was the only backer of the proposition. Chesapeake Energy is known for being the third-largest overall producer of natural gas in the U.S., so their contribution to getting the proposition passed is no surprise.

    Earlier in the week, it was also brought to light that Pickens is testing the waters on the development of natural gas vehicles as well. Clean Energy Fuels, the natural gas distribution founded by Pickens, joined the Perseus fund to invest $160 million into designing, building, and manufacturing natural gas vehicles.