First step

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | May 2009 Vol. 64 No. 5

Natural gas has already experienced tremendous growth over the past 20 years as a power source for factories, plants and homes. Even the traditionally fuel-oil dependent Northeast is beginning to embrace natural gas. No doubt this trend will continue.

But natural gas can mean so much more for our country. While the Boone Pickens Plan is not the cure-all for our alternative fuel needs, it is a good starting point for serious discussion. Converting from gasoline to natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and creating the infrastructure necessary to support NGVs has become a viable strategy.

There are political impediments, namely the powerful coal lobby. Granted, coal remains an abundant energy source in North America. But despite the coal industry’s best effort at spin control, it is still a dirty fuel requiring expensive “scrubbing” technology to meet today’s environmental standards. Most likely, those standards are going to become even more stringent, requiring constant technological development and expensive pollution control measures. It’s getting tougher for coal to compete economically. Plus, the hazards of the coal mining industry have been well-documented.

Natural gas is cheaper to develop, has existing technology substantially in place for easier conversion to NGVs and, with a little incentive, is ready to quickly take quantum leaps into becoming more efficient and convenient for ‘at-the-pump’ availability.

While at some point we will certainly have to develop other energy sources, natural gas provides a bridge fuel that can effectively get us through the next 50 - 100 years in a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly manner.

Natural gas is today’s alternative energy source ready and waiting.