Well, that didn’t take long.
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has already had a significant impact beyond the creation of a tragic environmental disaster. Oil companies are once again being portrayed as heartless robber barons who care more about profits than public safety, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is having second thoughts about offshore drilling in the Pacific, and a few less people are yelling ‘Drill, baby, drill!” in an election year.
The goals, as always, are energy self-sufficiency and a reduction in the need for oil to run our cars and trucks. America imports approximately 2/3 of the oil we use, 70 percent of which is used as transportation fuel for automobiles and about 8 million heavy-duty trucks, which use 1/3 of the oil we import as fuel. Total cost? $400 billion a year.
Heavy trucks can’t run on battery power yet, but they can run on natural gas. Clean energy champions such as former oilman T. Boone Pickens have strongly advocated an expanded use of natural gas vehicles in America, especially given the expected demand for oil supplies in China and India, and the increased per-barrel price that will accompany them.
Natural gas is cleaner and cheaper and more abundant than oil, and we’ve got all we need right here – enough to last at least 200 years. And while it would be difficult to convert the auto industry to natural gas, given the dearth of refueling stations, private industries such as heavy-duty truck fleets could be more easily converted, with stations added to their headquarters or along the routes their drivers most frequently travel.
These and other issues were discussed earlier this month at the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles Conference held in Las Vegas.