Philadelphia Daily News op-ed: Natural gas in the tank: The way to energy independence

Date: September 15, 2011
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BY MIKE JOHNSTON

BACK in 2008, before the economy began to unravel, Americans were talking about planning our country\’s energy future and looking in new, greener directions. Then things came apart, and our priorities changed.

Politicians and economists keep telling us that we aren\’t out of the woods, yet few seem to offer any real ideas on what it will take to get our country back on its feet and into a position of global leadership. One very important area in this respect is our dependence on foreign oil.

In July, we imported 359 million barrels of oil, 11.5 million barrels a day, at $85 to $115 a barrel. That\’s about $1.4 billion dollars a day out of the U.S. economy and into the coffers of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria.

Seventy percent of the oil that we import is refined into gasoline and diesel for the 350 million cars and light trucks that use our highways every day and the 8 million heavy trucks that bring us nearly everything we purchase in stores.

But what if we could use a domestic fuel to keep that $1.4 billion in our economy? And what if we could do it in a way that would be cleaner and greener, too?

The answer is that such a fuel does exist: natural gas. It is domestic, abundant (current estimates indicate we have enough U.S. reserves to last 100 years or more) and significantly cleaner than either gasoline or diesel. A national distribution network already exists through which natural gas is brought to consumers all over the country. And producing natural gas creates well-paying jobs and direct economic benefits wherever gas is found.

The main obstacle to using natural gas is something of a chicken-and-egg situation. While a nationwide distribution network does exist, fueling stations for natural-gas vehicles are few.

Although there are 13 million vehicles out there that use clean natural-gas fuel, only 120,000 are in the U.S. Manufacturers won\’t sell them here because they believe demand isn\’t high enough. Without the cars in showrooms, fuel stations won\’t put in natural-gas pumps. And without easy fueling, consumers won\’t buy the vehicles.

The solution is to introduce natural-gas fuel to heavy trucks on a large scale. When diesel cars and pickups first became available, there were few diesel pumps at gas stations, so diesel-car owners refueled at truck stops. As these diesels became more popular, stations started including a diesel pump.

The same thing can happen with natural gas. Heavy trucks are limited in the fuels they can use. The only two fuels that make sense for them are diesel and natural gas. Heavy trucks can\’t run on batteries, and gasoline engines don\’t deliver the fuel economy they need.

Local and regional fleets that return to their home terminal each night can install their own natural-gas pumps. Next, truck stops would install natural-gas pumps for long-haul trucks.

As demand rises, so will the incentive for gas stations to install natural-gas pumps.

Mike Johnston is a writer, founder of a local music and film production company, and Pennsylvania state leader for the Pickens Plan to promote natural gas.

NOTE: Click HERE to view this op-ed online.

 

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.