As usual, the Republicans cannot stop attacking. President Obama traveled to Las Vegas yesterday and was speaking at a UPS facility. The facility was stocked with specially made natural gas trucks. Republicans have stated that these are not practical. In fact, this is American ingenuity at work. I don’t think that natural gas cars are the answer for everyone, but they simply makes sense in this particular sector of business. UPS was big enough to be able to set up the infrastructure and then reap the cost savings.
On Thursday, President Obama traveled to Las Vegas to pitch a few new energy policies — including tax breaks for firms that buy natural gas-powered trucks. T. Boone Pickens, for one, has argued that fueling vehicles with natural gas is the best way to curtail oil use. Is it?
President Barack Obama speaks at a United Parcel Service (UPS) freight facility about greater use of natural gas . (Ethan Miller – Getty Images)In small doses, perhaps, though it depends what the alternatives are. Fueling up cars and trucks directly with natural gas could help cut America’s reliance on crude oil. Yet some experts have cautioned that plug-in electric vehicles should play a much more pivotal role in weaning the country off oil. After all, it’s far more efficient to take natural gas, burn it to generate electricity, and power a bunch of plug-in vehicles, than it would be to fuel up cars and trucks with all that natural gas directly. (That’s because the combustion engines in cars and trucks lose waste more energy than the modern-day combined-cycle gas turbines that produce electricity.)
The counterargument is that electric vehicles are expensive and hard to scale up — and they typically require a vast new charging infrastructure. That’s true. But natural-gas vehicles could face similar hurdles. A 2002 analysis in the journal Energy Policy found that natural-gas fueling stations have historically had trouble getting built precisely because they turned out to be far more costly than anticipated.
For those reasons, a 2009 report from MIT on “The Future of Natural Gas” predicted that natural-gas vehicles would likely play a modest role in transportation — mostly confined to long-haul trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles like buses and delivery vans. Meanwhile, the MIT analysts expect natural gas to play a much more prominent role in the electric sector. That, in itself, could be an environmental boon: The report found that electric utilities could very rapidly cut their carbon emissions up to 22 percent by switching from coal to natural gas in key areas (and that’s without making major capital investments).