How Much Natural Gas Do We Have to Replace Gasoline?

I Took This Picture of a CNG Bus on a Recent Trip to D.C.

You may have seen the recent news that a report by the Potential Gas Committee says natural gas reserves in 2008 rose to 2,074 trillion cubic feet. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (via Rigzone) both had stories on it, and T. Boone Pickens issued a press release. In this post, I will look at how long these reserves might last, if used to replace US gasoline usage.

First, from the New York Times:

Estimate Places Natural Gas Reserves 35% Higher

Thanks to new drilling technologies that are unlocking substantial amounts of natural gas from shale rocks, the nation’s estimated gas reserves have surged by 35 percent, according to a study due for release on Thursday.

Estimated natural gas reserves rose to 2,074 trillion cubic feet in 2008, from 1,532 trillion cubic feet in 2006, when the last report was issued. This includes the proven reserves compiled by the Energy Department of 237 trillion cubic feet, as well as the sum of the nation’s probable, possible and speculative reserves.

The new estimates show “an exceptionally strong and optimistic gas supply picture for the nation,” according to a summary of the report, which is issued every two years by a group of academics and industry experts that is supported by the Colorado School of Mines.

The Wall Street Journal wrote:

US Has Almost 100-Year Supply of Natural Gas

The amount of natural gas available for production in the United States has soared 58% in the past four years, driven by a drilling boom and the discovery of huge new gas fields in Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, a new study says.

...the Potential Gas Committee's study was prepared by industry geologists who analyzed individual gas fields using seismic imagery and production data provided by gas producers. The surge in gas resources is the result of a five-year-long drilling boom spurred by high natural-gas prices, easy credit and new technologies that allowed companies to produce gas from a dense kind of rock known as shale. The first big shale formation to be discovered, the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas, is now the country's top-producing gas field, and companies have made other huge discoveries in Arkansas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Together, the shale fields account for roughly a third of U.S. gas resources, according to the Potential Gas Committee.

Pickens had this to say:

T. Boone Pickens Statement on Surge in Estimated Natural Gas Reserves

Today’s report substantiates what I’ve been saying for years: there’s plenty of natural gas in the U.S. I launched the Pickens Plan a year ago to help reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and using our abundant supply of natural gas as a transition fuel for fleet vehicles and heavy-duty trucks is a key element of that plan. On the same day this report is going out, diesel prices are again on the rise, squeezing the trucking industry. Now more than ever we need to take action to enact energy reform that will immediately reduce oil imports.

The 2,074 trillion cubic feet of domestic natural gas reserves cited in the study is the equivalent of nearly 350 billion barrels of oil, about the same as Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.

A number of people have rightly pointed out that a 100-year supply implies usage at current rates. But it got me to thinking about how much natural gas it would take to displace all U.S. gasoline consumption. So in the spirit of my year-ago essay Replacing Gasoline with Solar Power, I will do the same calculation for replacing gasoline with natural gas. The big difference between this calculation and the earlier one is that solar power still has some technical issues to resolve (e.g., storage) and electric vehicles are not yet ready for prime time. On the other hand we are perfectly capable, today, of displacing large numbers of gasoline-fueled vehicles with natural gas.

How Much Do We Need?

The U.S. currently consumes 390 million gallons of gasoline per day. (Source: EIA). A gallon of gasoline contains about 115,000 BTUs. (Source: EPA). The energy content of this much gasoline is equivalent to 45 trillion BTUs per day. The energy content of natural gas is about 1,000 BTUs per standard cubic foot (scf). Therefore, to replace all gasoline consumption would require 45 billion scf per day, or 16.4 trillion scf per year. Current U.S. natural gas consumption is 23 trillion scf per year (Source: EIA). Therefore, replacing all gasoline consumption with natural gas would require a total usage of 39.4 trillion scf per year, an increase in natural gas consumption of 71% over present usage.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the 2,074 trillion standard cubic feet cited in the study is accurate, that the "probable, possible and speculative reserves" eventually equate to actual reserves, and that the gas is economically recoverable, that is enough gas for 53 years of combined current natural gas consumption and gasoline consumption. If you assume that only the proven plus probable reserves are eventually recovered, the amount drops to about 1/3rd of the 2,074 trillion scf estimate, still enough to satisfy current natural gas consumption and replace all gasoline consumption for almost 20 years.

We can also calculate in terms of oil imports. Right now the U.S. imports about 13 million barrels per day of all petroleum products. A barrel of oil contains around 5.8 million BTUs, but oil only makes up 10 million of the 13 million barrel per day figure. Other imports include things like gasoline (4.8 million BTUs/bbl) and ethanol (3.2 million BTUs/bbl). Scanning the list of imports, I probably won't be too far off the mark to presume that the average BTU value of those 13 million bpd of imports is about 5.4 million BTUs/bbl. On an annual basis, this equates to 25.6 trillion scf of natural gas, which would be an increase over current natural gas usage of 111%. Going back to the 2,074 trillion scf from the study, this would be enough to displace imports of all petroleum products (again, at current usage rates and not factoring in declining U.S. oil production) for 43 years.

What's the Cost?

Natural gas is presently trading at about $4 per million (MM) BTU (although December 2009 is trading at almost $6). Oil is presently trading at $71/bbl, which equates to $12.24/MMBTU. Gasoline is presently trading at over $17/MMBTU. Thus, natural gas is a bargain relative to oil or gasoline. Incidentally, I just checked on seasoned wood and wood pellets, and they range from $8-$12/MMBTUs. So it is cheaper to heat your house with gas than with wood. I am not sure I would have guessed that.

While natural gas is a bargain relative to gasoline, converting a gasoline-powered vehicle to natural gas isn't cheap. According to this source, it can cost $12,500 to $22,500 to convert a gasoline-powered car to natural gas. Honda makes a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle, but according to this review in Car and Driver the premium over the gasoline version is $8,780. A person would need to drive an awful lot to justify that premium. However, that's what fleets do. They drive a lot. The large price differential explains why fleets would be interested in running their vehicles on natural gas.


So, the good news is that the United States could be energy independent if the newly released natural gas reserve numbers are remotely accurate. It also appears that we have enough natural gas available that civilization isn't going to end any time soon due to lack of energy supplies. There are three caveats. First, energy independence via natural gas could require us to spend significantly more for personal automotive transportation. Second, "possible" reserves may never materialize. Finally, a large chunk of the calculated reserves are based on shale gas, and that requires gas to be in the $6-$8/million BTU range to be economical. Still, it is a bargain compared to gasoline, and it explains why fleets are more receptive to conversion to natural gas than the general public is likely to be for their personal vehicles.


After posting this post on my personal blog (R Squared Energy Blog), I received the following e-mail from Marc J. Rauch, Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher of The Auto Channel, explaining why converting a gasoline powered vehicle is so expensive.

Hi Robert -

Thanks for the work you did on figuring out how much natural gas we actually seem to have (according to current knowledge) and for the related cost comparisons. It's a great and value tool for those of us that believe in CNG (and propane) as a viable engine fuel alternative.

One thing that I would like to add (assuming that you didn't already know this or learn it since posting your piece), is that the cost of CNG conversions for existing vehicles is as high as it is because of EPA licensing requirements. For an individual (or shop) to be licensed to do a conversion, the person must pay $10,000 per year, per engine type, per year of manufacture. So that if a conversion shop wanted to do conversions in 2009 for Camrys for the years 1995 to 2005, the shop owner would have to pay the government $100,000 in licensing fees. Then, if he wanted to do conversions on the same models in 2010, he would have to pay the $100,000 again, even though they are the exact same models and engines that he has been licensed on already. And if there is more than one engine involved, i.e., a 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder, the cost would double.

Therefore, if a shop owner wanted to do 10 model years of Camrys and Corollas and Celicas, and well as Honda Accords and Civics, unless there were common engines being used in these five models the licensing cost (for just one engine per) would be a half million dollars, which would have to be paid again in 2010. These fees are, needless to say, ridiculous and are only there to ensure that many don't get done (thanks to the gasoline lobby). The cost of the conversion kits are actually relatively inexpensive. If there was a sensible licensing fee (or no fee) the cost for the work could be just a few hundred dollars.

To be fair, there is a second part of the cost equation that has to be addressed: trained CNG conversion mechanics. An argument is typically made by those that want to make argument against CNG that there aren't enough trained mechanics. This is somewhat true, but of course there really is no shortage of new and old mechanics that would be willing to learn. So the issue is where can they be trained? The University of West Virginia has a great automotive program that they've "syndicated" to other colleges around the country. In California, two schools (Rio Hondo in So. CA and Yuba College in No. CA) teach the UWV curriculum. They can and do teach CNG conversions.

I hope the above wasn't too redundant for you. If you have other information or newer information I would love to hear of it.


Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher

Those licensing fees are a rip off.

From this report (pdf and in German) it costs between 2000 & 3000 Euros to convert a car to natural gas.

Still a tad expensive for a lot of people, but I would bet it would get cheaper if a lot more people started doing it.

True, those 'licensing' costs are blatant protectionism.

Aussies have lots of experience with conversion of cars to LPG/CNG and there the costs are A$2000-4000 (US$1600-3200 £1000-2000), with a government grant of A$2000. The payback time is described as "less than 25,000 kilometres".

You see many taxi's with the conversion and it might be an ideal way of dealing with the big gas-guzzling SUVs in the states. Ban any SUV with less than 20mpg from the road, unless it's converted to LPG exclusively. The tank needed to hold the LPG is less problem given the wasted space in such vehicles and its not as if you are cutting off the market, dead.

A year or so ago when I was in a taxi in Chengdu, Sichuan, the driver pulled into a fuel station to tank up - both the car and the station were both CNG and gasoline capable.

The driver said that the CNG gave him less range but it was cheaper per mile, so that's what we bought that day. Almost all the taxis in Chengdu are dual-fuel, according to him.

It was quick: the driver connected up the compressed-gas line himself, and we were off in about the same time as a gasoline fillup.

I didn't see many personal cars taking on CNG at that station - mostly taxis.

The oil/gasoline lobby is rich and powerful. Ethanol producers/farmers have been fighting them for over 20 years. In the end the solution was to buy them off with the blender's credit.

The licensing fees for engine conversions are news to me. But I am not surprised. This is another de facto subsidy for gasoline. If compressed natural gas were to take over much of the gasoline market there will be a battle royal that will make ethanol's struggle look like a kindergarten exercise.

Oil/gasoline producers will fight back and hard since it is not just around 10% of the market they will be losing but perhaps all of it in the end. That would mean no more oil refining for gasoline. Ouch.

And who needs all the gasoline tankers and truck drivers to take compressed natural gas to stations when just about every city in the country has a natural gas pipeline. All that is needed is a compressor and some distribution/safety equipment.

If car dealers who were dumped in the Chrysler and GM bankruptcies are creating a fuss, just imagine the fuss as refiners and gasoline distributors go bankrupt.

Even ethanol producers/farmers will be upset since less gasoline use will mean less ethanol needed for blending. Compressed natural gas, should it actually blossom, will meet a lawn mower of opposition to cut it down. Oil refiners and ethanol producers will be leading the way.

The tactic likely to be used will be fear mongering as in the food vs. fuel anti ethanol jihad. IMO this time it will be fear of rising home heating costs and little old ladies freezing to death in the cold because of high priced natural gas do to its use to fuel cars.

Like with ethanol the huge benefit to the economy of keeping wealth at home instead of sending it outside the country to pay for oil imports will be ignored as the fear mongering runs amok.

Unless I am mistaken the ten grand is for certification to do a particular vehicle MODEL equipped with a particular ENGINE.

So if say the California state police order one thousand new 2009 Caprices with the same engine, the per car premium is only ten bucks. And if the company gets more orders for the same car,the per car costs get even lower.

But it's still a rip off.

A random visit from time to time by a roving inspector ans a performance bond would be more fair by far.

The little guys can't afford the ten grand,they will never get the necessary volume in any one car model.

Yes, its not licensing per vehicle, its per model per engine type ... which means that the licensing is not a big overhead for a large fleet conversion, but it makes a retail operation prohibitively expensive.

I think you (and maybe a few others) are confusing LPG with CNG. The fuel and the resultant modifications are entirely different.

LPG is derived primarily as a byproduct of oil refineries and is composed of propane and butane. It compresses to a liquid under relatively low pressures of a few bar. The fact that you can liquify it in this manner means that you can carry almost the same amount of energy as in conventional fuels, a little less because the density is lower and it still requires a low pressure cylinder to contain it.

CNG on the other hand is just natural gas, in otherwords methane. To achieve any sensible level of energy density for transport it is compressed to around 200 bar. This requires very heavy walled high pressure cylinders. More recently these cylinders are being made from carbon fibre to reduce the weight for transport vehicles. Even with these high pressures the energy density of CNG is much less than liquid fuels.

As a result of the above the cost of vehicle conversions is significantly more expensive for CNG than LPG. I recently tried to find suppliers who could do CNG conversions in Australia. As far as I could find there is only one company in Melbourne who does this work and they have only done relatively few conversions. The cost is close to $10,000 per vehicle. I am sure this would drop significantly with sufficient volume. Maybe $3-4000 is possible.

I could get any car converted in Brazil for under $1,000.00 It ain't freakin brain surgery for crimminey's sake. Calling those fees rip offs is quite the understatement!

Brazilians almost all cook with natural gas and while it is illegal just about any corner mechanic can hook a car up to run on bottled cooking gas. That of course costs waaaay less than a grand...

...same thing in Egypt -saw a taxi cab with a big cannister of LNG in the boot. Egypt has a low income pp, someone is bending over and taking it like a man in the US -surprising that...


Korrekt, speedy!
In Germany, running a car on NatGas is a steal compared to gasoline (less than half the price, due to lower taxes). According to your document (thanks for the weblink) the car equipment pays off after 45,000...74,000 km (28k...46k miles), so one might wonder why not more people do it.
This may be partly due to a hen-egg dilemma: Few gas stations are equipped with natgas (coutrywide some 5000 with LPG) due to the small demand, which is due to the limited gas station network.

However the dark side of the natgas investment here is problably the medium and long term outlook of gas supply: Even the natgas lobby states that EU gas production is declining and we are increasingly dependent on GUS + OPEC countries (now about to establish the GECF cartel). So in Europe this isn't really an option.

As for North America the natgas supply might deserve a second look: As far as I remember the US supply was pretty tight before the shale gas was "discovered" and the Canadian gas production is declinging + being needed to exploit the oil sands.
Has anyone checked if the increased production from the "new" US shale gas (as far as the US economy can afford it now) will make up for the production decline of North American conventional gas?

The reasons US natural gas prices have been so low recently is that the "new" unconventional gas was more than making up for the decline in conventional natural gas in 2008 and early 2009. The infrastructure is inflexible--there is no more storage, and people aren't using any more to heat their homes or businesses. Prices plunged. With the recession, industrial demand is down as well, making the situation worse.

Drilling for new wells is now down by more than half, because of the oversupply problem. It seems like production could be ramped up a fair amount, fairly quickly, if we wanted to. I would expect use of natural gas for cars would need to be mostly in the geographic areas where it is produced, since we don't have a lot of excess pipeline capability, in general.

@speedy: The ADAC report you are referring to talks about LPG conversion. We have some garages here who convert also to CNG but they are rare. The cost is about 1000-2000€ more than an LPG conversion. To my knowledge there is no such licensing fees for the dealers, just for the manufacturers. And those are linked to "Abgasgutachten" (exaust fumes certificates) which are issed by the german TÜV. The manufacturer of the coversion kits applies for a general licence for each vehicle and motor type. This is the most expensive part of the approval process and costs about 10.000€ per motor. This is why there is a limited number of cars/motors available for conversion.

Somehow I have a feeling the Arabs will never let that happen!


Thanks Robert!

I understand there is some legislation that has passed the House but not the Senate that would help fund the cost of natural gas vehicles, among other things.

New Senate Bill Looks to Offer Massive Tax Breaks for Natural Gas Vehicles

A new bill, NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions), has been proposed by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV),and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which looks to push natural gas vehicles into the consumer mainstream. The proposal looks to offer a bevy of natural gas vehicle purchasing, refueling and manufacturing tax credits which would eclipse even current credits for electric vehicles.

People purchasing a light vehicle capable of running on natural gas would get a $12,500 tax credit, significantly more than the $7,500 credit offered for plug-in vehicles. Current tax credits for three other weight classes would double, up to a maximum of $80,000 for the largest vehicle class.

Bi-fuel (gas and natural gas) vehicles would also be eligible for a 50 percent incremental cost tax credit -- this means that 50 percent of the costs that companies assume from increasing production would be offset by tax credits. The bill would also make it 100 percent tax deductible (with some limitations) to build a facility which builds natural gas vehicles. The bill would also offer refueling stations up to $100,000 to provide natural gas vehicle refilling pumps.

I vote reduce the tax credit, and nix the EPAs licensing fee.

Barret,you sound as if you are real honest to god freemarketer .I couldn't agree more,in this case at least.

I have no experience with ng gas engines but propane engines are very similar and as reliable as gas or diesel engines.

The only reak difference is that ng requires a very strong and expensive tank and more robust tubing from the tank to the fuel system,where the pressure is regulated downward.

Now if the govt and the auto industry want to do something to ensure the survival of the personal vehicle w/o need for new tech that may or may not ever work and may not scale if it does,I suggest that standards be set up to require cars be built like commercial trucks-easily repaired and thoroughly standardized.

We are not well served by an industry that changes designs at the drop of a hat and produces dozens of mechanical variations of engines and transmissions not to mention sheetmetal ,every year or two.

It takes all day to remove and replace ordinary components on passenger cars that can be changed out in minutes on big trucks.

I would suggest that GM could get by very nicely with two four bangers two sises and two veights for big trucks,plus the really big diesels that they buy from Catepillar etc.

But it takes five minutes for a parts man just to figure out WHICH engine is in your gm car.They must have manufactured three dozen at least in the last ten years.

Gaining a half mile or a mile and a half per gallon,or five or six horsepower, is not enough to justify making the car so hard to work on that it winds up in the wrecking yard before it is even half worn out.

But thats what happens.

Any mechanic will tell you that a modern engine or transmission shows little or no actual WEAR,as a usual thing,at two hundred thousand miles.

But when some dinky little part buried inside the guts of the vehicle fails,it costs so much to find it and replace it that the car is scrapped as often as not.

Standardized designs used for longer periods can eliminate these troubles with little parts by redesigning them.

Are you a commie freak? "standardized designs" -- those are fight'n words!

Still, the "free market" is likely to lead us there eventually as surpluses dry up.

Great post Robert. Natural gas as a transportation fuel faces a few challenges, but also offers great advantages (lower prices than gasoline/diesel being the major one).

Storage close to the consumer is the primary challenge. There are workarounds (increasing pipe capacities and storage in LNG tanks) and so it is not a deal breaker.

Natural gas prices in the US are currently much more volatile than oil prices because of storage (limited and expensive) and demand (for peak electricity generation) dynamics.

Reducing natural gas price volatiliy will require storage (most likely in LNG tanks) to be built close to consumers. This will reduce price volatility but increase natural gas prices (to pay for the storage).

Natural gas is already used in many taxi/bus fleets in the US and around the world so the technology is known and has been battle tested. It should be the fuel of choice for all cities and urban areas. It burns "cleanly" (much less polluting than gasoline/diesel) which is a great benefit to air quality and health in cities.

Natural gas doesn't have to replace all of our gasoline consumption (I realize that is not what you are suggesting - you are putting the solution in perspective). You are so right in that it makes good sense to be a decent part of the portfolio of diverse transportation solutions.

A timely piece indeed...

However, I would further augment Robert’s musings with a CDN perspective.

Your friendly, integrated neighbours to the north (a.k.a. the cappuccino machine constructing mice in the attic) have quietly expanded their proved, probable and possible NatGas reserves (conventional/unconventional) to +1000tcf – approximately half of which is thought to be recoverable, thanks in large part to the successful Barnett & Haynesville shale tech deployments.

Moreover, since Canada is both the world’s second and third largest exporter and producer of NatGas respectively and domestic usage seemingly set to an annual 5.9tcf for the foreseeable future, I wonder if the dire proclivities here at TOD re: peak NatGas and future energy constraints, will need to be quietly re-examined?

GAIL - The other piece of US legislation that coincides with the NAT-GAS legislation you highlight, is the Sullivan(R-OK) Bill wherein US$150 million has been allocated for a nat-gas vehicle research program

If that letter is accurate, it just shows what a wonderful free market the US really has! [/sarconal]

Of course your figures are only ballpark, but they are informative.

But the big problem is the infrastructure. It will cost hundreds of billions to build extra natural gas pipelines, processing units, and fuelling points right across the US, and train the staff to operate them safely, as well as mechanics to do the conversions and service the vehicles.

It will also take at least 10 and probably 20 years to convert or replace enough of the existing fleet, and require most new vehicles to be built as CNG powered from new. That will require huge amount of legislation and raw political power. Does Obama have that much charm? Who will buy a CNG car whilst the nearest fuelling point is 100 miles away?

In the mean time, the oil supply will (probably ) be depleting fast enough to keep the world (let alone the debt ridden) US economy on life support all through the transition, and then in 20 years, when you have finally clawed the US out of its 20 year depression - bingo! peak gas.

We need to drive less, in far smaller vehicles. We need to conserve all energy we can, and invest in renewables with every spare cent.
CNG can be used to keep civilisation from collapse through the transition, or it can be used to stagger on as if BAU is possible for another 20 years. That is a political decision.

There used to be home refueling devices, that would work off a person's natural gas lines into the home. Of course, if very many people did this, the ability of the natural gas pipelines to supply sufficient fuel would be quickly overwhelmed. For example, see this 2005 article, Convenient Home Refueling Appliances Now Available for Natural Gas Vehicles.

I figured out what happened to the refueling devices. The company making the devices was placed in receivership in April 2009. According to this article Honda cuts the line to fuel-pump maker

FuelMaker manufactured CNG fuel pumps, including a home- based version known as the Phill.

Honda had tried to sell FuelMaker for $17 million to Clean Energy Fuels, a Seal Beach-based natural gas distributor owned by entrepreneur and conservative activist T. Boone Pickens.

That deal fell through in October.

On Thursday, Honda allowed FuelMaker to enter into receivership, with its assets to be liquidated, according to the natural gas association.

There's a storage technology (ANG - Adsorbed Natural Gas) that's trying to get a foothold in the market and probably be useful for NGVs.

This company has some tanks for stationary applications,

This company has been penetrating Asian and South American markets with transportation applications,

Conventional CNG has pressures around 300 bar, it takes quite a piece of equipment to get pressures that high. ANG storage can store useful amounts of NG with commodity compressor technology, and can match the storage of CNG with about 50-70 bar.

There's a substrate, some form of activated carbon, that has pores that are a couple of methane molecules in width. I know little of the physics of how it allows storage at lower pressures.

Great idea!!

Hydrogen and carbon like each other chemically, hence the stability and ubiquity of methane (CH4) and larger hydrocarbons in general. There are many different forms of carbon and they are used for many purposes. One common one that almost everyone has heard of is "activated charcoal", which is used to clean drinking water of many impurities among many other applications. It is just amorphous and graphitic carbon that has been heated to increase its internal surface area (a little like a kid's "jungle gym") so that other molecules can penetrate through the "bars" and get absorbed. The nice thing about the absorption of methane into the "jungle gym" of activated charcoal is that it is reversible. The reason for the lower pressure is that the chemical bonding forces between the methane and the activated charcoal take the place of the sheer physical pressure of a metal natural gas tank.

A simple and cheap way to reduce the cost and greatly improve the safety of natural gas storage. Simple there are many other similar chemical solutions like that (including zeolites) or simply different surface areas of activated charcoal, the power of the marketplace and research would greatly enhance the availability of NG storage technology if it becomes more widely used in the US and elsewhere.

Very good news indeed. Hopefully, we will have enough good sense to take this good news and not abuse it.


Right now, a person with money (!) can buy a Kohler generator that runs on natgas:

There was a long discussion about this topic yesterday on the Drumbeat so there is no need to repeat - repeat - repeat - repeat ...


- There is issue with these 'reserves'. We are in the 'Green Shoot' period where all happy talk about our new future is welcomed. This happy talk is lies. I prefer listening to Simmons, who has a track record.

- If the reserves are there, why not use them for essentials rather than just burning them up? Can't we try something different? Add the fuels together available 200 years ago and compare to today, we have used about half of them, most being the easy to extract fuels. The grand total of estimated new gas resources does not add very much to the total of remaining resources. We've used half; what do we have to show for it?

- Robert doesn't address the economic complexities that would emerge if nat gas was to become a primary auto fuel. In order to be so, the output would have to roughly double for domestic use and double again to service overseas demand. How much would development ultimately cost? How would development costs deal with the rapid declines of individual gas fields? How would the flood of gas effect the oil markets? Keep in mind that natgas cannot be a successful auto fuel unless it is sold at rock- bottom prices. Current gasoline prices cannot support the car industry we have now.

- The pricing mechanism has many poorly understood feedback loops. Gas price is low because of declining industrial demand v. a large increase in supply - which may be of short duration. That's why I am calling the bottom in gas prices now and this being 'Peak Gas'. People buy in at the wrong times; at the peak!

- Since demand is low there is no bidding for drilling services; rig count is low and rates are low. Adding more demand would increase prices - this would increase rates which would have to be integrated with gas prices forward. It is likely that rates - and production costs - would increase faster than returns from gas sold. Horizontal drilling and production is expensive and all related costs would increase as well; The attempt to massively add to production would increase the cost of gas to the point where it would not be an affordable auto fuel.

- How would a massive expansion of gas supply be financed with the money system broken?

- What effect would this doubling of production have on water supplies, pollution, destruction of habitats, destruction of aquifers, etc. Can this destruction be balanced by ... convenience, somehow? New car sales? An upturn in auto dealerships? A natgas car winning the Indianapolis 500? Whoopie!

- More focus on end users; can natgas propel the rest of the auto infrastructure? Right now, oil constraints look to limit the exponential expansion of the auto empire across the world. If gas can keep the cars moving and the oil is switched to roads, bridges, strip malls, tract housing, office campuses, manufacturing plants and the rest ... won't that just make the remaining easy- to extract oil disappear that much faster?

I think there is the chance for a kind of reprieve from the worst of the peak oil outcomes if the country can step away from the slavish adoration of the auto. If not, there will be a 'surprise' down the road in a few short years where some dude gets on TV and tells a stunned audience there is no more natural gas.

There is a piece on the cutting edge site about Honda and the ng fueling company they were involved with.The guy who wrote it ,Edwin Black,iirc,tends to get a little carried away imo,but its well worth reading.

Great Thread...
Fwiw, we own two CNG vehicles(Ford van, Honda Civic) AND a Phill re-fueling unit. (The van gets refueled at a PG&E publicly available pump--of which they have many.) We received this email (and snail mail copy) a few weeks ago--I'll paraphrase:

Date: July 7, 2009
Dear FuelMaker Phill Product Owner:

You will be pleased to know that Fuel Systems Solutions purchased the assets and technology of FuelMaker Corporation. Fuel Systems Solutions through its subsidiaries BRC, Italy, and IMPCO Technologies, Inc. Santa Ana, CA. will continue to offer service and repairs for the FuelMaker HRA (Phill). Production of new equipment is expected to be announced later this year.

Our company, Gas Equipment Systems, Inc. (GESI), the oldest and largest privately held former FuelMaker, Corp. Distributor has been appointed the California Master Distributor for both the HRA and VRA FuelMaker product lines.

The new owners are in the process of relocating all the FuelMaker manufacturing and operating assets to their location in Italy. IMPCO Technologies is in the process of opening their new service center in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Gas Equipment Systems Inc., CNG compressor maintenance department will be responsible for sales, installation and maintenance in California for the PHILL HRA product line. We are currently interviewing and signing on independent qualified field installers and maintenance organizations for the PHILL HRA throughout California. All calls for sales, installation and maintenance need to be directed to 909-466-6920 x222 or email:

We realize that the FuelMaker, Corp. Bankruptcy was unexpected and certainly an inconvenience to all our FuelMaker product clients. We certainly appreciate your patience during the past few months.

There--now you know.


This is what the cutting edge piece is about.It goes into a lot of detail and does not present Honda in an at-all favorable light.

Biomethane as a drop in replacements beats out the current crop of liquid alternatives in energy balance, cost, and yield. It can't support our current demands but probably can sustainably provide some nominal fraction. I think most of the liquid alternatives like corn ethanol would soon fall by the wayside if there was a big enough push for NGVs.

Maybe R**2 will get invited to one of the biogas co-ops in Germany or Austria.

It will also take at least 10 and probably 20 years to convert or replace enough of the existing fleet, and require most new vehicles to be built as CNG powered from new.

Sounds familiar: the Hirsch rapport. Whatever transition you do, it will take a lot of time. The rise of oil the last let's say 100 years lead to a tremendous amount of cars, trucks, planes, etc. How could that be turned around in a few years ?

But the big problem is the infrastructure. It will cost hundreds of billions to build extra natural gas pipelines, processing units, and fuelling points right across the US, and train the staff to operate them safely, as well as mechanics to do the conversions and service the vehicles.

I believe it, without knowing the facts and details.

In calculations like this, it is well to remember what "reserves" really are:

  • Proved reserves have a better than 90% probability of actually being reserves.
  • Probable reserves have a 50% to 90% probability of actually being reserves. And may have 50% probability that they don't exist.
  • Possible reserves have a 10% to 50% probability of actually being reserves. And perhaps a 90% probability that they don't exist.
  • Speculative reserves are someone's speculation that there could conceivably be such reserves. There is a probability greater than 90% that they don't exist.


    Reserves also imply a specified selling price and development cost environment. Generally, if price goes up, reserves go up. If price goes down, reserves go down. If development costs go up faster than prices, reserves go down.

Good point Lrd.

I found this article on line that has more details from the report.

Proved + Probable = 693 which is quite a bit less than P + P + Possible + Speculative = 2074

Has anyone seen a copy of this report? It is not posted on the Gas Potential Committees web site. I find these secret private efforts very frustrating. You can't get the reports. You can't verify the methodology. And the numbers rocket through the press with no discussion of proved, probable, possible or speculative. Look at the New York Times article. Just what we have come to expect out of Jad.

Optimism bias. If people took to global warming probabilities the way they enthuse over reserve estimates, every coal plant would have already been bulldozed.

This is a longer summary of the report.

According to the website:

In addition to the Advance Summary and full printed report, the PGC will release the third edition of its information-packed CD-ROM product, PGC Trove 2009. This disc will include digital versions of the report, both in its entirety and as amply bookmarked individual chapters. The trove will again feature the comprehensive Folio of Historical Production Trends and Forecast for the United States, consisting of more than 2,500 historical-trend plots covering the entire U.S., the Lower 48 States, each oil- and gas-producing region and each onshore and offshore producing province. PGC also will premier a suite of spreadsheets that tabulate all of the Committee’s published national, area- and province-level assessment results back to 1964.

Prepublication orders for the full printed PGC report, Potential Supply of Natural Gas in the United States (December 31, 2008) may now be placed with the Potential Gas Agency, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401-1887. The cost of the printed report is US$495 (US$515 for foreign shipment), if payment accompanies the order. The printed report with the companion CD-ROM will be available for US$950 (US$970 for foreign shipment). All purchasers will receive the Advance Summary immediately and will automatically be sent the full printed report (or report plus CD-ROM) when the book is expected to become available in late summer.

So everything is very expensive.

I am not sure that it is the amount of the reserves that matter so much, but what the climate is for producing those reserves. If the price of natural gas is high (and stays high), and the government helps see that more infrastructure is built, it seems like production could increase. But if the credit collapse continues, natural gas companies (which tend to be small) will also tend to drawn in. Prices will stay low, and regardless of the amount of natural gas reserves, little will be pumped. I don't see the majors as having the extra cash or the will to go after buying up the little companies, especially if there seems to be little hope of getting prices up.

Last month I asked my friendly local research library to buy a copy of the report and was told that it would. I haven't seen it yet, though.

I went back to look at Laherrere's 2007 forecast for the US. He reports that total dry production up to 2005 was 1025 Tcf with an estimate of 1500 Tcf total production. So roughly 500 Tcf remaining (in 2005). And that 500 Tcf remaining gave this curve (click for larger view):


Now if we use the 693 Tcf value above (reject false accuracy, so say 700 Tcf) then you would get a line slightly to the right of the 1500 Tcf total estimate. But not that much further. Perhaps the peak will be delayed another 5 years or so. (Unless, as Gail points out, economic factors prevent production, then we could have peaked last year).

So I think the take away is that jumping from oil to natural gas would be like hopping from one sinking boat to another. I wouldn't spend money doing it except where it made good sense today. Instead invest in the long term solution that won't be sinking in the days ahead: Electrified rail.

Things have been changing so much in terms of technology in the last five years for natural gas that I don't think it makes sense to rely on Laherrere's forecasts using 2005 amounts. His analysis was likely right based on what was known then, but I think both technology and the financial situation have been changing.

Right. I agree that the field is changing quickly.

I posted Laherrere's graphs for reference. His position in 2007 was that the US had about 500 Tcf remaining to be extracted (P2 proved + probable). The Gas Potential Committee is making an estimate that the US has 700 Tcf proved + probable remaining.

My point is that the 700 Tcf is only about 200 Tcf more. And that small amount won't shift the curve on Lahererre's graph very far to the right. We can still expect to be down 50% of current production before 2040.

As I recall Natural Gas was always seen as a 'bridging fuel' not the final solution, so yes, that ship will also sink but more slowly and giving us more time to develop 'the alternative...'


Thank you for making this point.

Reading this thread reminds me of a group of junkies who are getting a boner over finding another bag to last them another day.

And like another thoughtful poster pointed out above, it's nice to make projections without thinking of logistics of the entire system... and the politics tell the saudis to cut production slowly for us, so we can build the infrastructure...)

I'm going to go do two shots, and return to read more later, thankyou....

here is an alternate version of the potential gas committees RESOURCE estimates:

"The new PGC estimate of the total United States natural gas RESOURCE base at year-end 2008 is 2,074 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), more than 36 percent higher than in 2006. This total reflects a 515 Tcf (36 percent) net increase in the PGC estimate of potential natural gas RESOURCES to a volume of 1,836 trillion cubic feet, the highest level in the Committee's 44-year history. It also includes 238 Tcf of proved gas reserves at year-end 2007, the most recent estimate independently made by the Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. q.v.

238 tcf of proved gas RESERVES and the balance RESOURCES, RESOURCES.

BIG difference.

i believe what was posted in the key post was a media report incorrectly refering to reserves when the potential gas committee was refering to resources. that is the only explaination i have.


by use and missuse the media and general public have the term "reserves" meaningless. and as you point out, the term has a very specific meaning.

anyone who doesnt get the distinction, try this experiment: fill you newly converted (at $$,$$$) cng vehicle from colloquilalized ng reserves. one might just as well try to run on thin air - make that hot air.

I have been a member of TOD for 3 years now! wow!

re nat gas cars. I was gung ho to buy a Honda GX, then looked at the reviews online. not pretty.
the reviewer said:
- it was slow as a dog. no acceleration, could barely make it up hills
- much more expensive
- not as good MPG
- then the refueling issue

so I wonder if there is an issue with the power output of nat gas car engines?
is this realistic for cars, much less long haul trucks?
city buses seem to be popular

Another thing to think about is frequency of repair. Since these are new, there may be more repairs than with gasoline powered vehicles. I don't know of any overall studies, but there are anecdotal reports such as this one:

The bus stops here: Region to scrap repair-prone natural-gas buses; First 'green' buses were a bust

Also, at this point, it would seem like there would also be a lack of trained service people.

Detailed answers are no doubt to be found in the CNG Main Forum - Natural Gas Vehicle Owner Community. A newer forum is CNG FORUM. The subforum for the Honda Civic GX (natural gas) at EdwardsCarTalk has been around for a while and has detailed info from people with experience with NGVs.

There are two repair issues:

One being the inherent repair issues with natural gas vs. gasoline or diesel.

In this respect, natural gas wins hands down because it burns exceptionally clean, and engine parts, on disassembly after 100,000+ miles, are normally spotlessly clean.

No oil sludge, brown residuals, or scum. Because of this, engine parts inherently last longer. They are not worn out by crud, or the acids that burning gasoline and diesel create.

There is a second issue with respect to the Natural Gas components and the quality of the conversion.

Here, the problem is very few cars come OEM with factory Natural Gas, and therefore, the quality is widely variable, from near flawless for 100,000+ miles, to seriously flawed designs and installations that are a constant nightmare of repairs.

The way to go with NG is not to go pure, but to go for a dual fueled CNG/Propane and gasoline vehicle that can be switched back and forth.

Then you get the advantages of low cost and low pollution most of the time, but can switch back to gas at any time if you should run out of CNG/Propane.

Stoichometric for natural gas requires more mass of fuel, and its less energy dense per unit volume than vaporized gasoline. If those are addressed as design parameters rather than retrofitting a gasoline engine the power problem goes away.

Not to mention that the GX is more expensive than the civic hybrid, which is just dumb. There's no reason why it should be much more than the regular civic, let alone the hybrid. I suppose the GX would have a lower fuel cost, depending on where you live, but the civic hybrid would be much more energy efficient and easier to fill up.

There is a legitimate reason:

This is a low volume, specialty vehicle that cost Honda a lot in terms of non recurring engineering costs, plus the cost to stock parts, train technicians, etc.

Same reason that diesels command a whopping premium in light trucks (i.e. $7 to 10k) that is far in excess of the raw cost difference of the engine and associated smog gear.

Good job on this article. I agree that the infrastructure would be very expensive, but at a minimum, we should be able to use natural gas for fleet vehicles. They have predictable travel patterns, which makes re-fueling much easier. Very surprising how much those licensing fees are.

Mr Rapier,

Interesting post.

One question which comes to my mind is the efficiency of an engine designed from starting with a blank sheet of paper for compressed natural gas. Diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline engines and an ethanol engine designed from a blank sheet should be somewhere in between. Where would a CNG engine fit?

Cost considerations would mean that initially most engines even from the factory would be gasoline engine conversions.(Like E-85 Ethanol engines) However on the production scale you are contemplating it would be interesting to see if design and retooling costs could be recovered through increased efficiency.

Engines built specifically for CNG gain from higher compression ratios, and use a modified catalytic converter to reduce methane emissions, but the changes are marginal.

They still require a heavier, larger gas tank (cylinder). The peak power output is slightly reduced, especially in dual fuel cars. Otherwise, there is not that much difference.

Robert mentioned to me that he wouldn't be available today, but will be checking back in a day or so to make comments when he is available.

NG can work on a diesel cycle or an otto cycle.

Diesel engines will need an ignition source. One way its done is to leave the liquid fuel system intact but cut to fuel flow down to about 20%, and fumigate the intake with NG. Compression ratio limited to about 12.5:1 in heavy duty applications.

Don't mean to rain on anyones Parade here but, it's unfortunate that so many armchair engineers sit and throw around the good vs bad of the IC engine. Doubt many have ever pulled one apart to see how it really works.

Brush up on a little history of the actual manufactures like Waukesha, and see what it is that made them tick. The vast number of engines used in the oil field during the 40's, 50's, and even up to the 70's, were Natural Gas. Small one Cylinder Poppers, to huge monsters, up to 20,000 cubic inches.

All the wiz bang tech that is OVER ENGINEERED into todays stuff, is a total waste. Diesel will run on a mix of up to 90% Nat Gas, any Spark Ignited IC will run on Gas, Propane, Natural, or Shit Gas. It's just a matter of de-rating the HP, depending on the fuel.

Retooling costs? That's a bunch of BS. There are No re-tooling costs other than a fat ass engineer dreaming up useless crap to hang on the side. You can buy, and have been able to for the last 50 years, IC crate motors that need nothing but a Gas valve to control the flow.

As usual, common sense is lost in the hurry to jump on the techno-merry-go-round.

That over-engineering is how modern IC engines deliver the efficiency that they do.

The older, simpler engines didn't stop working, they just aren't as efficient or in many cases as reliable, though they were easier to fix.

Yeah, that's why in the US the miles per gallon is not too much better than a model T ? Gotta love this Techno crappola...But wait, they make little tiny Thorium Reactors to replace the IC engines don't they?

Efficiency has very little to do with what's running up and down your street. Looks good to Joe Idiot when the salesman sticks it to him. And as always, good for a boatload of my tax money to be pissed away with EPA Regs.

Just keep the pedal down Techno Boy's, you won't feel a thing when you go over the cliff...

The American auto industry favors HP over MPG.

If you were to chart both over time, fleet average MPG would be fairly flat compared to fleet average HP.

1969 GTO - 400 ci 370 hp Manual Ram Air IV: 7.8 MPG
2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8, 425HP: 13/18 MPG

That's efficiency :)

Exactly and if you look at the weight of modern cars the fuel efficiency is pretty amazing when coupled with the performance. Fairly inexpensive "medium sized" cars like the Toyota Camrey perform like 1970s vintage Porsche 911s and have A/C, incredible emissions numbers, every conceivable consumer toy and weigh two to three times as much as those old Porsches. They do everything better and last 200,000 miles.

And its not just the Americans. Recently I drove a new VW Rabbit. Five cylinders (!), Porsche level performance again and crappy gas mileage compared to what is possible in a small car; 20mpg in the city. Clearly Americans don't care about gas mileage.

If we had been paying the prices for gas that Europe has over the years it might be different. There should have been a big Fuel tax but if that was the case it would have been pissed away anyhow.

Sorry Zombie,

Modern engines are two or three times as efficient (my personal wag) as Model T engines.The fuel economy average has not improved because modern cars ARE BIGGER,HEAVIER, FASTER,AND LOADED WITH GOODIES LIKE AC AND PS.

I have driven a Geo Metro three cylinder five speed at Model T speeds (35 mph)just to see what it will do.It will get over sixty miles per gallon on a smooth level road at 35mph,and small as it is it's more comfortable than a T and will run circles around it to boot.In second gear no less.

That car will be reconditioned and registered when the price of gas hits five bucks or so.It's just temporarily retired until I need it.

And there are still a lot more efficiencies that can be squeezed out of the ice,given a few more advances in materials and electronics that may be as likely to come to pass as the advances that are counted on to make the much improved batteries and fuel cells that are supposed to put the ice out to pasture.

I believe that evs are a coming reality,and that there will be lots if evcity cars on the streets w/i a very few years,but I will bet my farm that the ice will be around for another fifty years.

For whatit's worth,I've been into a few dozen engines over the years.I can easily repair the older ones,say 1965 back,but the newer ones get harder to work on every year.Major engine repaips are nowadays a narrow specialty within the mechanics trade.

"That car will be reconditioned and registered when the price of gas hits five bucks...."

where will you be able to find parts ? metro's are,imo, a disposable car - cheap to buy, but expensive to repair.

my own experience with two metros is that the gas mileage doesn't vary much, streets or highway. and in case you dont already know, dont drive a metro at the speed limit for an extended period of time. the cooling system for that 3 cyl aluminum engine is inadequate - burnt valves can result. removing the catalytic convertor may help in this regard.


I have known several owners of the older Metros and none of them have been dissatisfied with the cars from a reliability stand point.

It IS a Japanese car after all.

I have seen a couple still running with over 3OO,000 miles and no major repairs,and they are not that common a car.

The biggest worry is that the unibody is subject to rusting out.This is a very real problem anywhere the roads are salted and older Metros seem especially prone to rust

This is of course a death curse to the owner of a car worth only two thousand bucks or so at the very best,even it it is a low mileage car and in mint condition.

But it is a gift from the rust gods for somebody like me.

The one I bought is a deep south car and rust free.

Cars that run fine-rolling parts stores-that are too rusty to pass the safety inspection are available for as little as a hundred to two hundred bucks if you keep your eye on the local swap and sell papers and craigslist.

Parking one out of sight in farm country is no problem.

Older cars that are involved in accidents of that have major break downs are often given away,sometimes with new tires on them.

Any guy who runs his own small towing business gets in my estimation at least one free car every month,which can be sold for anywhere from a hundred fifty bucks and up for scrap metal,plus he gets the cat converter,battery,tires etc.A couple of years ago that meant AT LEAST four hundred bucks,cash,plus the tow charge of course, and up in maybe two to four hours work total,but the price of converters,which contain platinium,and scrap metal collapsed along with other commodities.

Alloy wheels were bringing seventeen bucks apiece,and a good set of tires goes from fifty to two hundred bucks at a yard sale.An engine computer or starter or alternator fetches twenty bucks and up.

I post this info for whatever value it may have to Oil Drummers who may be interested in the workings of the (partially) underground scrap metal /auto parts economy or out of work and looking for ways to stretch thier money to the limits,or maybe even earn a few dollars "on the side".

Any one wondering wondering how accurate it is can count the car hauling trailers parked in working class nieghborhoods the next time they find themselves a place where people have thier own houses but very little money and no community covenants that restrict parking.

Such a trailer typically sells used for about twelve hundred bucks plus or minus and if you already own a big pickup truck you can earn even at present prices two hundred net with it in a few hours once in a while.Maybe as often as once a week if you really work at prospecting for scrap cars.


Gutting catalytic converters is against the law but any body who works on cars knows that it is frequently done.Nobody with a business liscense who writes repair bills will gurt a converter but back yard guys do it all the time and apparently very very few,if any are ever prosecuted.

The car may fail any actual emissions test after that is done and it costs a lot more to replace a converter than it does to just leave it alone.

Gas mileage could go up-if the converter is 'stopped up" or down if it isn't,depending on the particular car and how it is driven.

you must have a lot of time to and enjoy endless crawling around junkyards. i know people like that also, its not for me, i'm saying.

"It IS a Japanese car after all."

metro's of the '90's vintage were assembled in the us, canada and japan. this can create another problem wrt finding parts as not all components are the same. you would have to look at the vin to determine where the car was assembled and try to find a part. the 1L 3cyc was an issuzu mfg in japan. metro's were also sold under other names, e.g. the sprint.

Mr Techno Zombie

Before you dismiss correct engine design let me tell you about my one experience with Natural Gass Engines. The site I worked on had two parallel 1000 Hp Waukesha engines. We had two because we needed to have one available at all times. A dedicated team of two mechanics was on site virtually full time because as soon as one was repaired the other had to come off line as it was in need of repairs. I have long suspected proper engine design would have saved us a lot of trouble. My experiences with gasoline powered waukesha engines have been much more positive.

Engineering for proper octanes, operating temperatures, and other fuel specifics is NOT OVER ENGINEERING. As an example increasing compression means different blocks and that can be a large retooling cost. Having said that a lot of the little electronic chips in modern engines make maintenance a nightmare.

If you are talking replacing all(or at least a very large percentage) gasoline powered vehicles with CNG powered vehicles which was the original premise small increases in efficiency can justify large costs in engineering and retooling.

People are being entirely too generous with this stupid comment. Your claims are just plain and obviously wrong (Model T is as efficient as a modern engine?!), and even if they weren't, they don't reall ysupport your conclusion, which is annoyingly ubiqitous to all your posts, about hopping on "the techno-merry-go-round." You realize that doesn't mean anything, right? You just say it because you think it sounds cool, right? It doesn't.

If I didn't know better, I would think you sound a little miffed that there is good news on the fossil fuel front that just might buy us time to sustainability.

To borrow an internet meme: FAIL

I will from now on skip over your posts. They never have anything of value. Just sick dogma.

To everyone else, I apologize for this post, but this crap attitude pisses me off. It's borderline sociopathic.

Thanks, good and thought provoking article.

If I remember correctly from my school days, there were natural gas powered cars buzzing around the streets of British cities during WW2. I think this was due to the war effort requiring all the oil. I remember seeing a photo of an old Bentley with a great big sack on its roof filled with gas - a bit like the bus in the picture at the top of this post.

So the idea has been around for a long time. I guess it never really took off because it was not the 'low hanging fruit' - oil gasoline was.

What are the safety implications of storing compressed gas on the roof of a vehicle moving at speed? I haven't heard of any buses in DC blowing up but it can't be as safe as petrol/diesel which is not stored under pressure. Also, the refuelling of NG into a vehicle must be a lot less safe as it is having to be injected at high pressure. Anyone have any thoughts on this?


ISTM that it would be more dangerous in some situations, less dangerous in others. If a liquid fuel tank ruptures in an accident you have a wet flammable substance leaking and is dangerous as long as it stays around, whereas methane would disperse quickly if isn't immediately ignited (unlike propane methane is lighter than air). On the other hand a 3500 psi tank that is catastrophically ruptured and ignited would make quite a fireball.

A 3500 psi tank that catastophically ruptures is not going to hang around long enough to be be ignited. It will exit stage left pulling 10 G (or more). You don't want to be standing in the way !

The modern carbon fiber tanks don't react like that. I'll see if I can hunt up videos of the tests done by the Canadian military using a 50 caliber sniper rifle to shoot a full 5,000 psi CNG tank. It basically went "hisss.." quite loudly for a while, no fire. Though of course a very powerful rifle like that would make identical holes on opposite sides, balancing the rocket forces. Other tests have been done by using explosive charges to pierce full tanks installed on cars and ignite the fuel. What happened was the fuel burned a hole straight up through the trunk of the vehicle, causing very little damage and no widespread "vehicle fire" comparable to gasoline tank ruptures. The PR fear mongering about compressed NG and hydrogen tanks recently was mostly just that, PR from oil interests.

A local ENG (Electronic News Gathering) van went on site to a burning truck hauling fuel. The talking head was live on camera while you could see it burning in the background. He was talking away and a fireball mushroomed from the truck but made no sound that the audio equipment picked up. He stopped talking mid sentence but kept looking straight at the camera, stood there frozen and never turned around to see what was going on. After a few seconds he commenced talking. The camera crew would have been facing it, I guess he thought he would just stay put if they weren't going to bail, they may have been giving him hand signals too. It was dark and I'm sure he saw the light from the fireball, and maybe felt the heat from it.

Those cars were almost certainly powered by "wood gas," typically made from charcoal. As a wartime expedient, they were used in a number of countries. The primary combustible component of wood gas is not methane, but carbon monoxide.

David Fridley and I visited this group today to check out their gasifier design:

The have sold over a hundred kits to people who want to experiment with wood gasification. They readily admit that it's not ready for mass rollout, but they are doing good work and people are starting to modify the design and feed back the modifications, in true open source fashion. One kit owner had quite a bit of horse manure as feedstock and managed to make it work (with pre-drying, no doubt).

I left with a deep appreciation of the convenience and energy density of liquid fuel.

I know of one fatal accident that occurred at a bus barn when the pressure regulator failed. Tank pressure was estimated to have reached over 16,000 psi when it exploded. In over 20 years of transit system use of CNG that is the only tank explosion I have heard of.

All of this “news” regarding increased natural gas reserves raises more questions than answers.

1. How did they calculate the reserves? (Their burden of proof)
2. What are the assumptions, both technical and economic?
3. How much will it cost and how long will it take to build infrastructure for a natural gas based economy? (Question number two all over again)

Given the human propensity for exaggeration and falsehood; especially where there is short-term pecuniary gain involved, one has to question the numbers. It may be cynical, but haven’t we heard all of this previously? The claim of Nuclear power advocates telling us that power would be too cheap to meter? Oil reserves being adequate to meet increasing demand for decades to come? That the Space Shuttle would provide safe and economical space travel? The list is endless, but so is human gullibility.

All of these news releases were carefully orchestrated to influence public perceptions and pave the way for legislation favorable to the gas industry. This is a PR/Propaganda exercise more than anything. We have known about these gas fields for a long time. The technology may be relatively new, but it didn’t come into being overnight. Now, suddenly, a silver bullet appears to solve all of our energy problems. However, this dream only comes true if we change the rules of the game, cough-up more subsidies, and relax environmental regulations. BTW, did you notice the irrelevant and emotional appeal about ending our dependence on FOREIGN oil? The problem isn't our dependence on FOREIGN oil, it our over dependence on oil period. Now, guess who will profit from all of this as we become over dependent on natural gas.

We need to ask three additional questions:

1. Who is the primary beneficiary of all of this?
2. What's in it for me (the public), and
3. Do you mean me(the public) any harm?

Caveat emptor.

The claim of Nuclear power advocates telling us that power would be too cheap to meter?

Man this one line soundbyte from one speech a century ago sure has a lot of repitition, and I sure haven't heard any nuclear power advocates use it besides Strauss, and he was speculating about the distant future.

But carry on with the lies, it makes arguments seem much more powerful I'm sure.

Would also like to add that you are cherry picking things that haven't come true (yet). Don't forget technology has done a lot of things that were promised too.

Either way, I don't see what a quote about nuclear power has to do with whether gas reserves are accurate.

1) Define primary.
2) A proven and vast fuel supply.
3) Come again? This seems like a loaded question.

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It seems like this is the kind of post non-peak oiler's would be interested in. Stop by and vote.

Huh, I suggested a couple of days ago that it'd be great to have this article posted here. Great to see this wish fulfilled.

According to the US Census Bureau 77% of Americans drive to work solo; for a workforce of 153 million this equates to 115 million vehicles that have to be replaced at a minimum. Numbers in this ballpark are what I use as a minimum for conversion or replacement of the US fleet; in the good old days of 17 million sales/year we'd Hirsch our way out of this mess in only 7 years; in the current auto sales doldrums of ca. 8 million figure more like 15 - the mean for Hirsch's transition. None of this accounts for conservation or efficiency measures, of course.

Much of our travel is discretionary, to put it mildly:

* 45 percent of daily trips are taken for shopping and errands
* 27 percent of daily trips are social and recreational, such as visiting a friend
* 15 percent of daily trips are taken for commuting

BTS | National Household Travel Survey - Daily Travel Quick Facts

Gasoline supplied is declining, somewhat in lockstep with Urban VMT:

Given the size of the US workforce a bottom must be reached here at some point, barring successful implementation of higher CAFE standards/a very severe protracted Depression/adoption of MT or bicycling+walking on a large scale; or a switchover to AFVs like CNG.

This should be put on Bill Boards Nation wide to both communicate and remind as well as instill guilt.
That would be a great government ad campaign if they truely want us to conserve.
Kind of like the crying Native American back in the 70s for litter.

A typical day in the life of a "stay at home mom".

Natural gas is basically a petroleum product. So just how difficult/expensive would it be to modify/build a refinery that would input natural gas and output gasoline and diesel fuel?
With the huge price differential between natural gas and gasoline I would think it might be possible to make gasoline from natural gas cheaper than from oil?

Already done, up until now it has not been economic

One could also mention that burning natural gas releases less CO2 than burning the equivalent quantity of gasoline.

Would be interesting to estimate how much CO2 would be emitted less if all gasoline was replaced by natural gas ...

Let me give it a try: According to Wikipedia, burning natural gas releases 117 lbs of CO2 per million BTUs, while burning gasoline releases 156 lbs of CO2 per million BTUs.

So, the 45 trillion BTUs mean 5.2 billion lbs of CO2 for natural gas, and 7 billion lbs of CO2 for gasoline, resulting in 1.8 billion lbs of CO2 emitted less (all this is per day).

Total CO2 emissions in the US were roughly 7,075 megatonnes in 2006, so 19.4 megatonnes per day. Therefore, 1.8 billion lbs (=0.81 megatonnes) is roughly 4.2%. This is quite remarkable, I would say!

Is it better to use the "abundance" of NG to replace gasoline, or to replace coal in coal-fired power stations, from this point of view?


  • Much less infrastructure is needed to deliver the gas to a few hundred power stations than to ten million vehicles.
  • I don't know the "lbs CO2/MMBTU" figure for coal, but I do know that it's considerably higher than for gasoline, and it's rising as the quality of coal degrades.

Of the top of my head, coal powerstations produce about twice the amount of CO2 per kWh generated than natural gas. Part of this is the lower carbon content in the fuel, part is that natural gas power plants usually are combined cycle plants which are more efficient than traditional plants.

However, due to the high price of NG vs. coal, NG plants tend to be used for peak power, rather than baseload.

Anyway, in my opinion there shouldn't be a drive to increase NG plants. There are various ways to produce electricity without fossil fuel inputs (nuclear, wind, solar primarily, hydropower too but there is not much opportunity for more of that), but replacing hydrocarbons for transportation is pretty difficult, so IMHO NG should be saved for that.

There are 4 main disadvantages, of a CNG car.

1. Range is half: The GX manages about 220 to 250 miles on a single tank, according to Honda, while the regular Civic can get some 500 miles on a tank
2. The engine of the GX is not as powerful as a regular Civic, about 25% less powerful.
3. The trunk is smaller (to accommodate the fuel tank)
4. There is nothing more damaging as a CNG fuel tank explosion amid a possible car crash.
5. The costs of a single CNG refueling station (one single pump) is about $ 100'000.

More from "Natural gas cars: Clean, green, going nowhere":

In California, CNG vehicles are heavily subsidized to improve air quality, especially in high traffic areas like the airport and ports. I doubt fleet conversions would be worth it for the fuel costs alone. Working near the airport, it is nice to not breathe all the black smoke from the airport shuttle buses.

Nice article, but Honda themselves say ca. 170 mile range for the 2009 Civic GX. I've read that it can vary - when you're down near empty you don't futz around and take chances.

The tanks are made out of kevlar - they don't take chances with safety. What's your source for the price of adding CNG to a retail outlet? Doesn't seem to be in your article. Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: Natural Gas Fleet Experiences mentions Seattle Waste Management building a big one for $7.5 million. Lots of other stories there, I'd like to see a breakdown of what it takes to provide CNG - might call some of my local retailers and survey myself.

The DOE's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: Alternative Fueling Station Locator will find your pump of choice. There's a dedicated site for CNG stations on the Net somewhere too.

4. There is nothing more damaging as a CNG fuel tank explosion amid a possible car crash.

Wrong. A CNG tank may rupture, but catastrophic explosion has not been seen - there's no oxygen inside the tank, in contrast to gasoline tanks. Breaks happen at the connectors. Engineers are a bit ahead of you.

The risks in a crash from CNG are lower than from gasoline. CNG is lighter than air and quickly disperses, while gasoline lies around in flaming pools.

Ask any fireman or mechanic how many gasoline tanks explode(other than while some idiot trys to repair one with a welder!)and he will tell you he has never seen such a thing except on tv.

Gas tanks as installed in vehicles have little or no air inside-the air space is all occupied with gasoline vapors and virtually no oxygen is available.

There can be no explosion unless air is injected into the tank by a stunt crew mechanic.

But a ruptured gasoline tank can release enough fumes,which are heavier than air,to create a modest explosion outdoors,more of a fireball really than an explosion.

Fumes can accumulate and mix with the air inside a garage in sufficient quantity to create a decent explosion.

the gasoline pump where you fill your car probably has a warning to not re-enter your vehicle while fueling. the reason is that there have been cases of a fireball ignition of gasoline vapors because of static electricity generated by the sliding of polyester pants against polyester seat covers(i made that part up).

dont try this at home.

As someone involved in managing 25 1992 Chevy dedicated CNG pickups (which we evetually got rid of), I can tell you why natural gas will not be accepted by the public ...

1) You are compressing the gas to 3,600 psi, which is VERY high pressure. The equipment to get that kind of pressurized gas in the tank is noisy, clunky and downright scary. The womenfolk were not going to clamp the fill hose on the pickups and listen to the "Terminator walking thru your house" sounds. The gas has to be pressurized to such an extent that most people will not be comfortable sitting atop a cylinder with that kind of pressure on it. And if you've never heard a natural gas pipe rupture before (and I have), the "BOOOOMMM" will stay with you for life. Average people aren't going to deal with it.

2) Amoco (now BP) installed a dozen CNG pumps (fast fill) 15 years ago in the Great Lakes area. They closed them all down a few years later because of the expense of maintenance and the electric cost of compressing the gas. You have to be willing to bleed cash while you are waiting for the customer base to materialize. If a major oil company couldn't make retail stations fly, no one can.

They are accepted by the public in Sweden and Germany and the big thing over here in Sweden is that compressed methane is the best available biofuel and it is also cheaper the gasolene due to the heavy taxation on fossil fuels.

At the end of last year were there 15000 light biogas wehicles and 1300 busses or other heavy wehicels in use in Sweden and the number is increasing. The 2007 number were 12900 and 1160.

My municipiality Linköping has run all of their city busses on biogas for about a decade and they are together with the neighbouring municipialities gearing up the biogas production to switch over all the regions busses to biogas.

The wehicels, gas distribution, biogas manufacturing and upgrading to natural gas quality is all off the shelf technology.

There are 773 stations in the US offering CNG, .67% out of 115,223 total. 95.92% of respondents to a poll about Does the Fuelmaker/Honda deal make you leave CNG for good? said they'd stick with CNG; none of the anecdotal evidence I've read about CNG talked about horrendous amounts of noise or deal breaking jumps in electrical bills. When were you maintaining your fleet? has a good map of filling stations and prices. Coverage is sparse to say the least, but you can find one somewhere in most metro areas.

1) You are compressing the gas to 3,600 psi, which is VERY high pressure. The equipment to get that kind of pressurized gas in the tank is noisy, clunky and downright scary. The womenfolk were not going to clamp the fill hose on the pickups and listen to the "Terminator walking thru your house" sounds.

I happen to know some womenfolk scuba instructors who know how do things like arc weld and tear down and rebuild a diesel engine who would laugh you out of town if they heard that comment. They are also very hot and sexy and could probably drink you under the table. Some of them even have kids... you obviously hang out with the wrong kind of womenfolk.

Yes, I hang out with 40-50 year old normal women with real jobs in my building. Not lesbian Amazonians.

Wow, you guys train your womenfolk good, huh? What planet is that, i'd like to avoid it.

Methinks both you and jivefive99 have missed my point.

Which is that sexist and misogynistic world views are IMHO pretty F'n lame.

BTW I' think I'd much rather hang out with Amazonian lesbians than people who think like jivefive99. As for training women or anyone else to conform to your own limited expectations is not something I would recommend, though you might try it with a dog.

Interesting post
I don’t think converting all cars to natural gas is a good idea. Hopefully, we will learn our lesson and reverse urban sprawl and build more trains and light rail.

I agree.

When looking at hydrogen and the possibility of it's conversion to a very simple hydrocarbon based liquid fuel (methanol, ethanol, propanol) for compatibility with existing fuel distribution, refueling infrastructure, and auto technology - I came across the work of Nobel winner George Olah.

His work provides for a new method of efficient conversion of methane / natural gas to methanol. As a liquid fuel, methanol is much more compatible with existing infrastructure and automobile technology though it does present issues with corrosivity to aluminum and some other metals.

If the proposal included an analysis of conversion of CNG to methanol, I am interested in what the conclusion would be.

Methanol also has the capacity to be a carbon bearing but carbon neutral fuel if starting with hydrogen and CO2 and using the atmosphere as source and sink for the carbon component - Olah has worked on this also.

Some links:

I would anticipate it being much easier and of greater value to solve corrosion issues applicable to any methanol fueled vehicle than it would be to reduce the utility of light vehicles so profoundly through CNG conversions.

CNG > Methanol > Liquid Fuel infrastructure > Existing liquid fuel vehicles

Hydrogen + CO2 > Methanol > Liquid Fuel infrastructure > Existing liquid fuel vehicles


Methanol will work in existing flex-fuel vehicles. Also, it is much easier and cheaper ($500/parts) to convert a standard vehicle with fuel injection to flex-fuel. Also, methanol can be mixed with ethanol and gasoline. Building NG to methanol plants now to supplement the fuel supply would be the best way to take advantage of the natural gas reserves IMO.

One point I would disagree with RR on is electric vehicles not being quite ready yet. The Mitsubishi iMIEV is being mass produced now. BYD of China also has a model in production.

WTF? We have 43 to 53 years left, and that's supposedly good news? And you endorse the idea of spending half the remaining natural gas supply on automobiles?

WTF? Seriously, that's crazy-talk.

Agree. See, we're all irrational and want to clutch at any straw to continue happy-motoring BAU. (With the possible exception of Nate Hagens.) Even the supposedly clearsighted folk on TOD.

Good, another sober person.

Seriously, I bet Richard Heinberg would be rolling over in his grave if he were dead right now.

I'm glad natural gas is such a waste product and that it has no other uses and that our descendents won't need it or anything like that.

Half the OilDrum audience takes the blue pill daily.

I think we should line all of the adults up on one side of the gym, all the kids under 5 line up on the other side, and just stone the little buggers now and get it over with.

Okay, Okay, maybe not, maybe just have the adults explain to the kids on the other side of the gym that we need their share of the fossil fuels NOW.

Tell them we'll leave the some of the trees for them. They can build flintstone cars and stone heads.

WTF? We have 43 to 53 years left, and that's supposedly good news? And you endorse the idea of spending half the remaining natural gas supply on automobiles?

This is the sort of comment that has driven many good posters away from TOD. First, I am not looking forward to a time when we run out of fossil fuels and people start to die. Some people seem to be living for that day, and they can't stand the idea that we might have a few more years to work out some other arrangements. One thing I do know is this: People will turn to coal and natural gas when petroleum supplies run short. I am interested in understanding the implications of this - not endorsing it as the right path forward.

Second, if you know the first thing about me, you now I am not a fan of our auto-centered transport. I don't even own a car myself. So you, and others who responded to your post suggesting that I am promoting the furthering of BAU - you are just dead wrong.

I am interested in mitigating the consequences of what I think awaits us. We don't have anything that is close to being ready to transition us off of more than a tiny fraction of our fossil fuel usage. So I am very interested in the amount of time we have before nature enforces that transition off of fossil fuels. Now we are probably mostly in agreement that we need to change our living arrangements. But if we change them too quickly, people are going to die. And for all the talk here about die-off and overpopulation, I think for most people these are abstract concepts. What if you knew that half the world was going to die off tomorrow? And by the way, your friends and family included? That changes perspective. But this is the way I view a massive die-off, and is why I am especially interested in moving in the direction of a solution that doesn't involve the deaths of 90% of the population. When someone says something like "die-off" to me, I see real people with real families.

With that, I probably won't respond to any other comments in this thread. Too much going on right now, and frankly I have found these sorts of conversations highly unproductive.

Hear, Hear!

The naysayers have been a part of humanity since the beginning.

I remember years ago every movie seemed to have a person with a sandwich board saying "The End is Nigh". See 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977).

Peak Oil captures the imagination of Rapturists, Doomers, Luddites and Survivalists, preying on the same human fear instinct.

All those folks fail to consider the power of the ultimate human skill: adaptation.

Luckily, there are people like Robert Rapier.

First, I am not looking forward to a time when we run out of fossil fuels and people start to die.

But I am. I have seen huge areas of beautiful, pristine savannah reduced to overgrazed, biologically-ruined wasteland in Africa due to overpopulation. I look forward to a die-off with rapt anticipation.

What if you knew that half the world was going to die off tomorrow? And by the way, your friends and family included? That changes perspective.... I am interested in a solution that doesn't involve the deaths of 90% of the population

You went from a 50% to a 90% die-off without pausing, but that excepted, I have no problem in my friends and family dying off. We (all of us) have completely monstered the biosphere. We are a cancer on this planet. A huge and immediate reduction in our numbers would give other species —that are now facing extinction— a chance. Your narrow, anthropocentric view of reality is a little disappointing.

I have no problem in my friends and family dying off.

What about you? Do you have any problem with you dying off?

Your narrow, anthropocentric view of reality is a little disappointing.

I have a selfish interest, I want to live. Is that disappointing?

I'll take my chances. I'm not a craven coward like some others here.

What is meant by "taking chances"? Not preparing? Not mitigating? Are you equating eagerness for wide scale suffering with bravery? I'm not thrilled with idea of large numbers of people suffering.

Methane is pretty easy to convert into gasoline/diesel oil - for example, Mobil's MTG process, and I'm sure there are others. Why not do this, and then take the crude oil sourcing most out of gasoline production? This would probably use less natural gas than a complete conversion, but that's OK, just so long as we aren't continuing to support Bin laden et al and others such as those disgusting scumbag excuses for humanoids that are the current dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea......

This was a quickie analysis, and it fails to mention what happens when you ramp up demand for Methane to the amounts suggested. I'm guess $12/MBtu initially, since pricing seems more dependent on what you can get for it and less of what it costs to make it plus a reasonable profit. In all probability, the real motivation for TB's natural ga suse by cars (however it is done) is to raise the demand for nat gas, which will make the price of it zoom upwards. Then ol' TB can once again wallow in money, the result of his methane assets drastically increasing in value.

And finally, cranking up Ngas production above the present level of 65 bcfd will do what to price?

Oh well, better not to use hydrocarbons at all. And I gotta go ride my bike to get some errands done....


Methane is pretty easy to convert into gasoline/diesel oil - for example, Mobil's MTG process, and I'm sure there are others.

The down side is that its expending lots of effort to turn 100 units of transportation fuel into 70 units of transportation fuel.

The discussion ignores the notion of maximum flow rate physically achievable given a large unconventional resource base, consuming 39.4 Tcf/year would require a doubling of the current US production rate (~21.4 Tcf/year), can unconventional sources reach and maintain such high extraction rates? this is a similar debate to the tar sand resource, the resource is large but flow rates are small.

Also, the cumulative production is around 1,100 Tcf which means the URR is between 1,790 Tcf (2P) and 3,374 Tcf (3P+speculative). In terms of depletion, the resource is between 35% and 60% depleted. At 60%, I don`t think that current extraction rates could be maintained for very long. At 35%, we would have about 800 Tcf before we reach the same 60% depletion mark.

Good point. Also, although RR mentioned that calculations rely on fuel use rates remaining constant, many responders seem to assume it will.

Furthermore, does RR think that all natural gas will be used for cars (if so, what will replace NG in other current uses) and that all US NG will be sold in the US?

It all looks like wishful thinking that people are only to happy to fall for.

I am glad that the outlook for NG looks better than for oil, but I really do believe that we need to be conserving that NG for residential heating. Just consider the typical service life for a motor vehicle vs. the service life for a house, and you will immediately see why this must be so. We will eventually need for all of our houses to be superinsulated, built to take maximum advantage of passive solar, with solar water heating, and with either geothermal heat pumps or connection to a district heating system. It may take all of this century to replace or convert most of them, and we still will have a lot that have not been changed out. That translates into the need for a lot of NG to tide us over this long transition (assuming that civilization does not just collapse altogether into a dust heap). That in turn does not really leave us with a lot for transportation use, or even really for electricity generation; in fact, we really don't have any to spare for motor vehicles, we need every cubic foot that we can get.

The problem is the notion that we can all keep tooling around in individual motor vehicles to the extent that we are now. We can't, especially in the long run once the NG runs out. What we need to be doing instead is developing and implementing long-range plans that will considerably reduce the amount of transporting that people need in the first place, by reconfiguring the built environment so that living, working, and shopping places are all in close proximity to each other for as many people as possible. This, like the change out of housing itself, is going to have to be a century-long process, and will continue long beyond that even. We also need to develop and implement a long-range plan to provide people with multi-modal transport options, matching the mode that is most sensible and efficient to the trip. I can see small NEVs being part of this mix, for they are adequate for short trips within a neighborhood, especially for people who are unable for one reason or another to walk or bike. For longer trips, there needs to be a mix of public transport available. What we are definitely going to have to get away from is the idea of someone hopping in a car and driving themselves hundreds of miles to a distant location; I don't care how the vehicle is proposed to be powered, it is just not a good use of whatever energy resources are available. The sooner that we can make more energy-efficient modes of transport available to more people, the sooner we can stop worrying about sustaining such unsustainable inefficient transport modes.

It might be that what we need NG to be replacing, at least in the short term, is diesel used in long-haul trucks and for industrial use. That might be harder to get along without than gasoline.


This is almost exactly the point of one of my earlier posts.If we don't keep something resembling the bau economy alive,we are so screwed that every other question except survival as individuals becomes irrelevant.Withuot bau,no more wind farms,no csp,no big build out of gwhps,no super insulated houses,no evs. NOTHING will get done.Martial law,riots,power down, mad max,or whatever you wish to call the end of life as we currently know it will be the new bau.

I've always believed we CAN avoid this scenario, but not that we necessarily will avoid it.

We need every year we can get to move in the direction of sustainability.Ng vehicles can help buy us a few such years-if the rest of the ecomomy doesn't roll over and die anyway.

If we can hang on for another ten years or so,maybe there will be enough people who "get it" to that they can gain control of our society.

Even then it would not be to late imo to change course and save most of our current cushy lifestyle,although fast cars and plane rides will be only fond memories.

The long-haul freight needs to be via rail or barge. As for the other diesel users - utility trucks, heavy equipment, agricultural equipment, etc. - these will need to gradually transition over to biodiesel as the petrodiesel runs low. Biodiesel for these essential uses is the one case where biofuels really do make sense. The EROI for biodiesel, while not great, is clearly positive and good enough for these high-priority uses. Yes, raising the oilseed feedstock crops will divert some land from food production; however, if the biodiesel is reserved for just these uses, then we will not be talking about all that much land.

Because the service lives of much of this equipment is so long, we really do need to be getting them directly on the transition path from petrodiesel to biodiesel. Otherwise, we may face the scenario of having to convert things at great expense from petrodiesel to NG, and then convert things a second time at great expense from NG to biodiesel.

CNG vehicles have one problem that it shares with EVs. How are we going to replace the lost revenues we now get from gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Charging up overnight at home means taxes not collected at the pump. Simply raising nat gas and electricity taxes means all utility users pay more at least up front. In many large cities a significant percentage of residents don't bother with owning a car due mainly to the high cost of parking. According to RR's figures then roughly 40% of nat gas use could be for vehicle use. Separating household energy use from vehicle use in a fair manner looks like an accounting nightmare.

The solution is to raise gasoline taxes as the price rises so that they represent 18% of the price as occurred when gas was $1/gallon. This will encourage conversions from gasoline as availability declines, it's a win -win, gasoline users can avoid rationing, NG and electric vehicles have a lower price.

Well eventually taxes will have to be determined by miles traveled. Insurance companies are already looking into it.

I think Pickens proposed using CNG mostly for trucking versus passenger vehicles, which would mean NG reserves would last a whole lot longer. Why not set up an infrastructure along highway 80, which crosses the country? CNG filling stations would spring up on outlet routes like highway 5 in California to meet demand.

My wife and I voted for Obama, but two of our dissapointments has been the failure to adopt the Pickens plan, and not enough money in the stimulus plan for renewable energy.

But this news, if accurate on NG, is very promising for the US to reduce our dependence on oil and reduce the political will to cause mayhem in the Middle East. That is, if the infighting on Capital hill can ever get more interested in their consituents than the laser targeted myopic vision directed solely by and for their own party.

I don't think it'll be practical for long haul trucking. Kenworth and Sterling are using LNG, not CNG, and a truck with 119 gallon LNG tanks has a range of 225-275 miles. Better to use them for the city where we need air quality improvements the most.

Thanks for info. dwcal. I didn't realize the range was so low.

Long haul trucking needs to be replaced by rail. Either CNG or LNG should be quite suitable for rail, because the fuel can easily be carried in a separate tender. Natural gas as a rail fuel is probably a much more efficient use of resources than to electrify a line and use electricity generated by natural gas to run the trains. The conversion of locomotives is almost trivial: as someone pointed out, diesel engines run perfectly well on natural gas; all you need is a little liquid fuel for ignition.

I thought NG conversions all used spark ignition with a lower compression ratio, but I did some searching and found this info about compression ignition with dual fuel. Interesting, but it is much less common than spark ignition and conversion doesn't sound as trivial as you say. Maybe it's easier for locomotives than trucks. I know about engines, but I'm a relative newbie with heavy diesels.

Include "fumigation" in your search terms, that should turn up some more info about diesels.

I haven't had a chance to see one of these trucks yet but given a couple of things I know about otr trucks,fitting larger tanks should not be a problem for lots of trucks.

The cargo tralier can be used to install suspended tanks,and in lots of cases the tractor chassis can lengthened,if the trailer is shorter.Some loads are light enough to fill the trailer and still not approach the legal load limit,but other loads such as steel,gravel,concrete,and lumber are so heavy that not even half the space available can be used.

Furthermore you can drop and hook(switch tractors-to a conventional diesel) in five minutes,which is a lot less time than it takes to do the associated paperwork.Friends who drive otr tell me they are not often more than a half hour drive from an interstate.

So not all that many fueling stops/stations would be necessary.

If the human race proves as logical as most people on the I could envision a world of nat gas powered vehicles combined with electric cars, public transport, and wind mills that would curtail civilization's collapse as oil prices rise and run low. If this happens it could actually increase a train revival for this reason: Can airplanes run on nat gas? Since trains are more economical and will be set up for inter-city travel perhaps trains will more easily get utilized for inner-city travel and for cargo transport further making the world more energy efficient. Will this also revitalize intercontinental passenger ships?

Here is also what can happen: Nat. gas vehicles reduce America dependence on oil but the car culture expands again due to lower fuel costs. Before many cars are converted to natural gas the cheap natural gas will be used make ethanol cheaper than oil. Eventually it will be a consensus that the high cost of food was due to the ethanol and using the gas to make ethanol was a lot more inefficient than just using the gas--but a lot of gas will be wasted in this learning process. We will see nat gas guzzling hummers and SUVs make a come back. The airlines will figure out some kind of Fischer-Tropsch process for converting gas to airplane fuel. The conversion process itself will eat up a lot of the gas. Soon America will start importing very expensive liquefied nat. gas from the newly formed ONGEC (Org. of Nat Gas Exporting Countries) cartel.

It might be interesting to have a poll to see what people think is the most likely scenario.

"Can airplanes run on nat gas?"

I think the proper question is...

Do we really need commercial aviation at all?


Since trains are more economical and will be set up for inter-city travel perhaps trains will more easily get utilized for inner-city travel and for cargo transport further making the world more energy efficient.

Trains can be electrified, eliminating the use of liquid fuel for actually moving freight.

Can airplanes run on nat gas?

Yes.  LNG is an excellent fuel for gas turbines, and lends itself to engine designs with higher efficiency (the fuel can be used to intercool between compressor stages and cool the turbine blades, regenerating heat and increasing the net output).

The airlines will figure out some kind of Fischer-Tropsch process for converting gas to airplane fuel.

It's already been done, but if NG is expensive the relative efficiency will favor LNG over FT kerosene.

What is much more likely is that commercial air transport will contract radically, and the glut of aircraft will make it impossible to finance a new generation of LNG airliners and build their fuel infrastructure; it will be cheaper to burn expensive kerosene in what have become disposable airplanes.  We may see more of these also.

If 30% of NG is currently used in electrical generation finding an alternative for that would free up supply. Perhaps new generation nukes will have the quickly variable output of combined cycle gas plants. However the likely response to cap-and-trade is to replace coal burning power plant with gas, leaving even less for vehicles.

I drove a petrol/LPG ute (pickup) last week and it was OK. LPG or propane has higher energy density than natural gas which is 80% methane. Using the stick shift is essential on hills. However it will go 300km or so on a gas fill up which no affordable battery car can do. I suggest those with a long commute will still be better off in a Honda Civic NGV than a PHEV that relies on an undersized ICE powerplant after 40km. The new Opel Zafira CNG/petrol van has turbocharging. It should have range, reasonable power and luggage space.

Perhaps new generation nukes will have the quickly variable output of combined cycle gas plants.

Molten-salt reactors can do this.  The liquid fuel allows the rapid removal of gaseous fission products, which nearly eliminates the xenon poisoning which prevents solid-fuelled reactors from decreasing their output by large fractions.  The self-regulating nature of the reactor is also a plus; if you reduce heat withdrawal, the liquid heats up, becomes less dense, and the reaction slows.

Molten-salt reactors can do this.

Oh, so cool! How many of these fantastic molten salt reactors are running commercially right now? I've been hearing about them for 20 years, it seems!

Sarcasm noted.

The last US MSR was shut down in 1969; there was an initiative to promote one as an alternative to the liquid-metal fast breeder, but it would have been too cheap (!; only $350 million compared to $400 million/year for the LMFBR) and was rejected.

MSRs running on thorium still represent a major threat to the uranium-enrichment and fuel-fabrication businesses.  On the other hand, the system is so simple that an effort on a wartime schedule could have a unit in operation within a very few years; all of the technology is available off the shelf.

If you care so little for your friends, family and yourself, perhaps you would volunteer for a role in the effort?  Say, as shielding?

"Apache's New Wells Strengthen Horn River's Potential Pay"

Three recent wells at Two Island Lake, operated by joint venture partner EnCana, have been brought on line at gross initial production rates of more than 16 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day and continue to produce 8-10 MMcf per day after two to three weeks…”

an annual decline rate of 0.999999681 ( 99.9999681 %), doesn’t generate much confidence in the 10 bcf reserve estimate.

0.999953357 (99.99533566 %) based on three weeks.

or a nominal decline of 14.96 or 9.97 for westex terminology.

That was what I came up with, but I guess we are assuming a hyperbolic decline.

BTW, interesting number for the day. I'm plotting some exporters' changes in production, consumption and net oil exports in terms of their simple percentage change relative to a specific year, generally the apparent final peak.

In any case, Indonesia's apparent final oil production peak was in 1996. In 1999, their production was only slightly below their 1996 rate--down 4% in three years. But here's the kicker. In just three years, they had shipped 63% of their post-1996 cumulative net oil exports.

If our export work is only approximately correct, things are going to get very interesting, very quickly.

yes, i should have said initial decline rate on an annual basis.

"Chesapeake Energy Corporation Provides Operational Update"

electric vehicles are not yet ready for prime time

I think that's a bit misleading. As "conservationist" noted, commercial EVs are in production. Now, currently there's a tradeoff between range and price with EVs, but PHEVs like the Chevy Volt will solve that problem, and give you a vehicle that cost-effectively and with no performance compromise eliminates 90% of fuel consumption.

Sure, the Volt needs a tax credit to be cost-effective now, but that will change very quickly as battery and vehicle volumes ramp up. No tech breakthroughs are needed, just the same inevitable economies of scale that made a $1,000 DVD player become a $50 giveaway.

Let me get this straight; I can right this second, go 'down' and buy a car from a bankrupt manufacturer that has no performance compromise - in other words it's a Ferrari - that gets ten times the gas mileage as a 'garden variety' Ferrari?

All it needs is a tax credit and it will be cost effective? Does that mean cheap?

Wow, a cheap Ferrari that defies the laws of thermodynamics.

Sign me up for a yellow one!

Let me get this straight, you are opposed to all cars, but especially to electric cars because they offer a solution to peak oil, hence will be around much longer than ICE vehicles.
OR are you just opposed to any technology that may avoid economic collapse?

Sorry I am not prepared to go back to subsistence farming or hunting and gathering( mainly gathering).

I think his criticism is that the Volt has "much in common" with a Ferrari as opposed to "much in common" with something like a Tata Nano.

You think electric cars offer a solution to Peak Oil?

hahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahah.....WHOOMP, my head just exploded....

I'll fetch the mop.

You think they don't?

It won't be todays BAU, but history shows that any non-sustainable BAU is ephemeral.

Sorry I am not prepared to go back to subsistence farming or hunting and gathering( mainly gathering).

So there we have it. Because Neil is not prepared to go back to subsistence farming, there must be a solution that allows BAU to continue for the rest of Neil's life.

It's a rock solid argument.

That means I will not support political action along the lines of Paul Pot's Year Zero. If you want to live a life of subsistence farming go ahead, just don't expect me to follow your example.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by subsistence farming but it sounds like you see two options: either a life of back breaking work with meagre returns or something close to BAU forever. The second option is not really an option, so something will have to replace BAU. The first option is also something I wouldn't support but permaculture and biointensive techniques certainly don't need to be back breaking or meagre.

I'd support political action that recognises earth as a finite planet. I doubt that any plan to deal with that will be perfect to begin with but that recognition is a key first step.

bankrupt manufacturer

GM's out of bankruptcy.

I can right this second, go 'down' and buy a ...[electric] Ferrari - that gets ten times the gas mileage as a 'garden variety' Ferrari?

Funny you should make that comparison - the one highway legal mass produced EV you can buy right now is the Tesla, which has better performance than sports cars that cost 3 or 4 times as much. It has a range of 244 miles, which is way better than any sports car needs. It's a big success on anybody's terms.

All it needs is a tax credit and it will be cost effective? Does that mean cheap?

It means that it will, over it's life, cost no more than a comparable pure infernal combustion vehicle at current gas prices.

defies the laws of thermodynamics.

Where do they come in? We're just talking about the cost of batteries.

Whooo boy, where do I start? The doomers are right. The human race is going straight down the toilet because they cannot let go of their toys.

Even when letting go of the toys would make life a lot more pleasant.

Starting with 'Nick':

As "conservationist" noted, commercial EVs are in production. Now, currently there's a tradeoff between range and price with EVs, PHEVs like the Chevy Volt will solve that problem, and give you a vehicle that cost-effectively and with no performance compromise eliminates 90% of fuel consumption.

This 'Volt' is going to 'give' me a vehicle that is 'cost effective' and with 'no performance compromise' and 'eliminates 90% of fuel consumption'.

'Volt' = Not currently available for sale. It is made by GM, which is indeed bankrupt, even as it has $50billion- plus taxpayer subsidy. Technically, GM is a 'zombie corporation'.

'cost effective' = cheap, less than ... $100K (I would hope). This would leave out the Tesla, btw, which costs ...

The base price of the car is US$109,000

'no performance compromise' = no performance compromise, such as Aston Martin or this nice Ferrari F430 Scuderia, a mere bagatelle @ $288K:

The Ferrari guzzles the (high octane) gas @ 11mpg and this new 'Volt' has the mystique that makes a Ferrari a Ferrari and gets ... 100mpg equivalent? How?

If someone wants to buy a performance car and has the money to spend - not cost effective, in other words - then buying a Tesla is a choice compared to buying a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 (which is a little less expensive and could certainly outperform any Tesla).

Here's a note about performance. With cars, performance is more than simple acceleration or 'range' it is handling, reliability, ergonomics, safety/crash protection, braking, cornering, stability, predictability particularly at high speeds. Companies such as Porsche, Mercedes and Ferrari have been racing at the highest levels for decades; racing builds performance. (Also Toyota, Honda, BMW, Audi and Renault). When Tesla Motors builds a car that wins a 24 Hour of Le Mans (Porsche fifteen times) or a Formula 1 race - (Ferrari 209 times) they can be considered a performance car. Basically, the Tesla is a hundred- thousand dollar conversation piece.

At the same time, the Tesla will require battery replacement. This will likely be a regular percentage of the cost of the car. Since the car costs three times that of a Prius, the cost of the batteries will also be three times that of a Prius. Which means an ICE Tesla would cost less over time than the battery version. If the owner did not drive the car the battery replacement would not be an issue although many batteries have an absolute life span. In this case of 'sitting the car' the issue of replacement is moot but so is the issue of electric drive! Many Ferrari and other exotic owners put very few miles on their cars but hold them as the increase in value being hand built in limited numbers. This is a possible outcome with the Tesla, which is also a hand- built vehicle.

Both performance and fuel consumption are related to aerodynamics, weight, speed and tire resistance. Formula 1 cars consume appx 3 miles per gallon (@ speeds +280 kph), much like a U-Haul truck - the increased speed and tire resistance is equivalent to the larger wind resistance and higher weight of the truck. Equivalent vehicles driven @ highway speeds with normally inflated tires will get equivalent mileages. The Volt will get the same mileage - miles per btu - as a ICE car the same size and weight. This is physics. The dollar difference is the cost of gasoline @ the pump versus the cost of grid electricity. If there is greater electricity consumption - or natural gas consumption - the price for these fuels will increase - simple supply and demand. There are 280 million vehicles in the USA. If 5% of these are converted to alternative use, the difference in price between the alternative fuel and gasoline will narrow proportionate to the volume differential of the different types of fuel. The 5% would result in an increase of 5% in electric rates or 5% of natgas price, all else being equal. If all USA vehicles were electric, electric rates would be high as gasoline is now and ... gasoline would also be high because of oil depletion.

The same holds true with climate gasses, the gasoline exhaust would be substituted with power plant exhaust.

Since all else is not equal; the additional costs of infrastructure, continuing infrastructure costs, subsidy 'depletion allowance' (subsidies are self defeating because they accelerate depletion), money costs (which are a 'wild card'), the stupendous manufacturing costs including writing off sunk capital (which is what happened with GM/Chrysler) and building new with uncertain markets ... the total price of both fuel and machine would be very much higher than you would expect. Since current cost increases have severely damaged the auto industry it is hard to see how much greater costs would benefit it.

Nick's entire proposition is incorrect, even the 'Conservationist' handle is incorrect. Welcome to 'Limbaugh- World'!

The problems cannot be solved, only coped with. The makers internally subsidized small cars with highly profitable large SUV's and pickup trucks. Without the large vehicles, the micro cars are not profitable enough to support a gigantic industry. All makers have shrinking sales; Honda, Toyota, VW, etc. and there is no bottom. The real issue is whether there will be an auto industry at all in five years. Without an industry, there will be no mass produced EV's. Unfortunately, the capital hill climb to produce EV's might be too steep; the attempt - in my opinion - will be sufficient to demolish those companies which try.

Better for all concerned to find a base small enough - low sales level - that would support the basics - manufacture of small ICE vehicles in small numbers plus repair parts. Also, a dealer force, service and a tire manufacture. (Tires are overlooked but I would expect a big manufacturer to fail and soon.) As the overall industry sinks, the few would survive to produce truck chassis and vehicles for utility purposes; police cars, ambulances, delivery trucks, busses, etc. The rest of the business should convert to streetcar and tram manufacture.

As for cars themselves; I like hand- built anything. The mass produced automobile (and the hamburger) have done more to destroy this country than an invasion from outer space! Our best farmland, our watersheds, our cities and towns, our health and safety have been destroyed by the auto.

However we visualize it, the U.S. area devoted to roads and parking lots covers an estimated 16 million hectares (61,000 square miles), an expanse approaching the size of the 21 million hectares that U.S. farmers planted in wheat last year. But this paving of land in industrial countries is slowing as countries approach automobile saturation. In the United States, there are three vehicles for every four people. In Western Europe and Japan, there is typically one for every two people.

At 61,000 square miles, that is bigger than the state of Georgia but smaller than Wisconsin. If you took all the paved area and made it into it's own state, it would rank 24th in area.

40,000 people die in crashes in the USA every year, the cost of doing business for the auto industry. There are more than a million annual deaths worldwide.

Can you imagine a war that caused a million deaths a year? Would there not be clamor for it to end? Can you imagine a million deaths by airplane crashes every year?

Cars make people fat!

Fat is also fatal or disease generating.

Cars isolate people and spread out jobs and homes. Cars are a force that unravels communities. Substituting one kind of fuel for another does not change these problems, it does not denature cars, it doesn't solve the other large- scale difficulties with infrastructure or make them safer or even more interesting. Car development has increased the wealth of a handful of people at the expense of everyone else. The sooner gone the better.

'volt' = Not currently available for sale.

True, but so what? There's no question that it will be.

GM, which is indeed bankrupt

No, GM has left bankruptcy.

Regarding Tesla: I saw a recent article in which the Tesla beat several other higher priced sports cars - that instant electric torque is very hard to beat. People who drive an EV become addicted - they're definitely better than ICE vehicles.

On the other hand, my comment isn't primarily about the Tesla, it's about moderately priced PHEVs.

More later...

There is a question whether 'volts' will be produced or not. General Motors is bankrupt! Sorry to break it to you, they may have 'cheated' their way through the bankruptcy court but they cannot make money. They are bankrupt.

This makes the volt a speculation. Maybe yea, maybe nay. Right now I'd say nay.

As for Tesla performance; give me some race results. Any race, any track, any formula or category. Name the drivers and name the competition.

What are these PHEV's going to be used for?

General Motors...may have 'cheated' their way through the bankruptcy court but they cannot make money.

That's an interesting idea. I guess what you mean to say is that GM can't be profitable. AFAIK, GM now has more assets than liabilities, has greatly reduced it's legacy debt and employee costs, and has a convincing business case for profitability. What do you know to the contrary?

No tech breakthroughs are needed, just the same inevitable economies of scale that made a $1,000 DVD player become a $50 giveaway.

DVD players trended that way because they are made of digital electronics.

Digital electronics don't really DO much, they just shuffle bits of information around. Anything that does real work in the physical world does not enjoy such economies of scale, because the limiting factor is typically fuel, not logic.

Sure, you can approach a limit of 30% better efficiency or something from a car, but you can't get a 300,000% performance improvement like we did with computers over 30 years, because there isn't that much waste to trim from the system.

Also, you may not realize that computers eat 10x as much fuel every 30 years.

My Atari 800 computer from the 1980s consumed 19 watts. A modern desktop computer consumes 190 watts. If this trend continues, expect computers in 2040 to consume 1,900 watts! :)

If a car or airplane had enjoyed the same trend, it would consume ~100x as much fuel today as in 1950.

We can argue that a modern computer "does more," but my Atari 800 today surfs the web and emails just as well as any new PC. There aren't any pictures, but honestly, those are mostly noise and marketing anyway. The text is where the information lives.

DVD players trended that way because they are made of digital electronics.

Absolutely true. My comparison wasn't perfect. Perhaps a better one would be the Model T, which fell dramatically in price over it's production period.

The fact is that advanced batteries have been dropping predictably in price by about 8% per year for quite a while, and industry analysts and participants say this will accelerate.

We can argue that a modern computer "does more," but my Atari 800 today surfs the web and emails just as well as any new PC.

Don't say that - the PC's can hear you!

The fact is that advanced batteries have been dropping predictably in price by about 8% per year for quite a while, and industry analysts and participants say this will accelerate.

I'd like to see references. Far as I know, the next big step for cars will be lithium batteries, and it's hard to do 4x better than that, because lithium is so close to the top of the periodic table of elements. If you want better, you need hydrogen, and fuel cells are still enormously expensive and the trend is not promising.

The business problem with lithium batteries and cars right now is that the battery costs as as much as a cheap new conventional car, and doesn't last as long as any conventional car.

Here's the reference,

And here's a longer discussion,

"For a minority of drivers, who would drive 15k electric miles per year, a Volt will pay for itself at $3.35 gas (an $8K battery over 10 years is $800 per year - a Prius uses 300 gallons to drive 15K miles, and a Volt would use 240 fewer gallons). This would include long-distance commuters (say, driving 30 miles each way and charging at work for 230 work days per year, and 10 miles per day on the other 135 days per year) and fleet drivers such as taxis whose vehicle can be used two shifts per day, and yet don't go that far and can be charged during multiple breaks - perhaps 10% of drivers?...

The current battery might require $4-$5 gas to capture a large % of the rest of drivers. They will have to wait for the 2nd or 3rd generation of Volt, which will be less expensive, or for more expensive gasoline - whichever arrives first. "

lithium batteries, and it's hard to do 4x better than that, because lithium is so close to the top of the periodic table of elements

How did you calculate that?

the battery costs as as much as a cheap new conventional car, and doesn't last as long as any conventional car.

You're thinking of the Tesla, which uses a very large battery pack and 1st generation li-ion. The Volt (and likely it's competitors) will use a pack that's much smaller and longer lived.

Thanks for the links.
If the doomer scenario is to eventuate where oil production drops quickly, gasoline is going to be much more expensive than $4-5/gallon, or even rationed, thus EVs will be very competitive and quickly replace ICE vehicles.
It doesn't seem realistic that people will abandon homes and suburbs worth >$100,000 because a vehicle with a battery costs another $5,000 more than an ICE vehicle. We also have electric bikes and scooters for those who cannot afford a new vehicle and in a few years second hand EV will start to become available.

I agree.

In the long-term PHEVs will replace oil for an equivalent cost of about $3/gallon.

In the short term there are a lot of easy ways to cut gasoline consumption if prices rise: carpooling, telecommuting, trip combination, local vacations, online shopping. I think a lot of gas consumption is of very marginal value to the consumer, and will be dropped if prices rise above, say, $5. So, I don't see gas prices staying above $5 for any really sustained time.

It doesn't seem realistic that people will abandon homes and suburbs

Yes. Heck, while they're waiting for their Prius (or Volt or Insight or Fusion or MiEV, etc) they might have to carpool. A terrible fate...

I don't see the US vehicle fleet changing over to NG anytime soon in any appreciable way (turnover cycle is too slow now), and so in many respects I think it's more helpful to make an assessment of the new recoverability of Shale NG on its own, for its own sake.

It's much more likely this resource would feed into the existing power grid. And, equally, that the power grid would be the transmission mechanism to utilize these increased reserves for the increased demand that will come from electrified transport, both in the form of rail, and EVs. In addition, I think the final changeover from legacy oil heating in large northeastern buildings (and many homes) is underway and will accelerate now until completion.

The US faces a tale of two cities now. Peak cheap oil is a distant memory, but, the NG resource base now recoverable with new techniques is nothing short of gargantuan. We probably can't, in fact, get enough daily flows out of it (as others have rightly pointed out) to run the current fleet on it in addition to any big new call, in power grid additions. But as long as we don't enter an Orlovian Collapse, in which an industrial-depression forms a relentless and never-ending economic decline (jury still out on that one) then at least we can live without freezing to death for another 25 years in Winter.

As for automobile transport it's my view that is pretty much over. Cheap liquids are cheap liquids and the whole system was built out on them. Accordingly, in my own work, I won't be doing much to gauge how much NG would be needed to run a good chunk of the vehicle fleet, because I think that fleet has peaked. Nevertheless it's enormously helpful to see the calculations, as they confirm (for me at least) a big part of the reason we simply cannot chase CNG for the national fleet.


Natural gas supplies are probably not going to be able to replace all of todays gasoline and diesel consumption, but the value I see for CNG is that vehicles can be retrofitted. A few years ago Iran converted 400,000 vehicles to duel CNG/gasoline, surely the US could convert several million vehicles/year.

"As for automobile transport it's my view that is pretty much over. Cheap liquids are cheap liquids and the whole system was built out on them."

The is no reason why cheap liquids cannot be replaced by even cheaper electrical energy. An EV uses about $1 of electricity (10kWh) to replace 1-2 gallons of fuel (25-50mpg vehicles).

CNG could be used in PHEV as the range extender fuel although ethanol would probably be adequate if PHEV use liquid fuels for only 10-15% of VMT.

There is no reason why CNG could not replace a portion of the gasoline fleet, with electric replacing the balance. This could allow a much faster uptake( retrofitting 2M older vehicles with CNG, 8M new vehicles electric). Even at 10million vehicles per year that's going to replace most of the fleet in the average 25 year life-span of most vehicles.

This guy has a good question:

Imagine the remaining reserves of oil and coal (and natural gas*) is a savings account. There’s a lot in the bank, but pretty soon income is going to decline and savings are going to get drawn down.

The question before us is: how fast should we draw down our fossil savings, and what should we spend them on?

(* = my edit)

Now let's go to the gym and line up the five-year-olds and tell them we voted to Keep On Truckin' ?

Nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, in the expense of swapping gasoline for natural is due to materials cost or labor.
Switching an automobile from gasoline to NG is roughly equivalent to connecting a digital tuner to an analog TV. The major components are fuel lines, tank, computer and carburetion.
The major COST is the EPA.
It's going to take a significant disaster to force the government to drop the restrictive EPA fees. An attack that wipes out a large part of our gasoline refineries or a significant enemy attack that destroys a large metropolitan center is the only thing that will motivate a nationwide switch to natural gas.

But what could the EPA do if tens of thousands of shops simply started doing the work and millions of drivers simply refused to abide by unnecessarily restrictive laws that prevent registration of NG powered cars? There isn't enough manpower to enforce an EPA mandate when millions of people are violating it and the courts would be choked with too many citations.

The reality is, it only costs, IN REAL TERMS, a few hundred or maybe a couple thousand dollars to switch any car to natural gas...that's the actual parts and labor.

Now that all of our energy concerns have been laid to rest by the discovery of trillions of cubic feet of NG, will this website close down? I mean, if NG can be compressed or liquified as a replacement for transportation fuel, and there are many decades of usage left, then isn't the whole premise of an impending energy crisis out the window?


I am well known as the eternal optimist of this board, but even I would not go that far! Right now, the nat gas boom is more talk that real production, so let's see how the actual drills in the ground work out first...

There are two more important issues in my mind: First of all, natural gas is not carbon neutral...a boom in natural gas burning will release carbon. If one takes the climate change threat seriously then natural gas usage comes at a cost. Exactly how big a cost will have to be worked out by those able to do the modeling.

The other issue is that IF we find ourselves in a "Trip to Bountiful" on the back of natural gas, the wastage of this valuable asset could become almost criminal. I know folks who would dream of over the road recreational vehicles that would essentially be highway locomotives if they knew they had an assured supply of cheap "clean" fuel. Can you imagine the Compressed natural gas and propane yachts and speedboats that the "high end" luxury industry could conjure up...concern about hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, weight control and efficiency would be just a waste of time with a flood of cheap natural gas on the way!

Natural gas is a geological gem, a once in all of history gift that can be used in chemical processes that virtually no other naturally occuring chemical can be used as substitute for. Methane recapture yes, but it would be decades before it could be harnessed in anywhere near the abundance of natural gas. I shudder at the thought of how rapidly we could waste away a once in history resource...we have seen it before, over the last 30 years or so with crude oil.

The gift of natural gas should be used first and foremost to transition to a renewable economy. I have never bought into the logic of "we don't have the fossil fuel to make the transition to renewables" and have always seen that as an excuse not to have to deal with the complexities of making the transition. Now we are pretty certain we can at least transition to a renewable economy, and that our current economy can survive in the meantime, IF we make the correct choices. is still too early to declare "problem solved" and wander off to other issues...we are still in a very vulnerable period and will remain so for some years to come. I say that as an optimist...:=)


Tax it!

Thanks for some perspective on this RC.

This article is maybe a bit too focused on one country i.e. the United States. Worth noting that in terms of proven reserves the United States has only 3.4% of the world total:-

so if the small US portion plus probable reserves in that country can cope with US transportation needs for 20 years over and above current usage it is maybe time the Olduvai Theory types gave it a rest. There would appear to be plenty of breathing space to transition over to a nuclear fusion based economy by the end of the century.

Those figures look optimistic to me. For example Australia is reckoned to have 500 tcf of nat gas and coal seam gas combined, yet the table says a lot more. A cubic metre is about 35 cf.

The other numerical check I'd like to see is to compare well-to-wheels efficiency of pumped and compressed direct gas in ICE cars versus using gas fired electricity in an EV. In other words does the electric drive train compensate for conversion losses?

DO IT!! The equipment is here

Lets do it without the pollies wanky doodle!

If natural gas heaters would be replaced by heat pumps and heat pumps would be powered by combined cycle gas power plants and wind turbines, significantly more natural gas could be freed up to power the transportation sector without increasing the natural gas consumption.

Using natural gas to heat buildings directly is a waste.

Does anyone want to discuss the impact of all of this "news" on propane (LP) fuel for cars? I still think that propane is the "invisible" fossil fuel in the U.S., and can't figure out why.

In China and Europe LP cars are relatively common, and you can even buy LP fueled lawn mowers (!) I have long that that a plug hybrid electric/LP car would be a fantastically efficient device.

In the U.S., it is almost impossible to find information on long term propane contracts, pricing, production and demand statistics, etc.

Propane being a by product in the production of natural gas, surely the recent news must have some impact on the LP industry.
Any other propane junkies out there?


There are dozens of forklift trucks in evey one traffic light town with a factory or two of almost any sort that needs forklifts-and the vast majority of them run on propane because it burns clean enough to use it inside a well ventilated building.

Battery powered fork trucks are used if there is not enough ventilation.

And there are quite a few floor polishers,farm tractors,etc, that run on propane too.

Hyundai are bringing out the Elantra LPG hybrid station wagon
No talk of a plug-in version yet. With both pressure tanks and a large traction battery these cars need to be vans or station wagons.

Do we really want to use up all the fossil fuels available to us without making major investments in carbon neutral energy? Natural gas is responsible for 25% of the anthropogenic methane (25X more potent than CO2) and the CO2 emissions are increasing from natural gas as the quality goes down.

Not to mention the environmental consequences of the newer mining methods such as hydraulic fracturing.

It is disturbing to me to think of using this resource to maintain our unsustainable transportation system of private automobiles!

I suspect a lot of TODDers are Rightards who don't believe that AGW exists. Hence the relief evident here that BAU will be possible forever as we go from petroleum ► CNG ... Hoorah!

Over 2mln out of 12mln cars in Poland run on LPG. There are also lots of them in Italy & South Korea.

I think this whole article is silly because the key points aren't really likely to happen, and they're not really feasible. OP is talking about replacing ALL automobiles that run on gasoline, for vehicles that run on natural gas? Silly.

Then you simply miss the purpose of the article, which was written to provide a frame of reference for the published number of 2,074 trillion, as well as lower fractions of that. It wasn't an argument to suggest we replace all gasoline, but rather to get a rough idea of the quantities we are talking about.

Anyone who considers simply replacing gasoline with natural gas is living in fantasy land. What's the point? It seems blatantly obvious to me that a swap would never happen. FYI the sky is blue, but if we tried to change it to the color green, we'd all be in deep shit!

So you sign up as a new user at 8:09, at 8:11 you're shooting barbs at RR's NG post where some controversy was recently manufactured.

Hey folks wake up and smell the roses. The guys in utah have been driving natural vehicles for years. When gasoline was $3.50 the equivalent natural gas cost was $.79. Performance was virtually identical but exhaust far cleaner. Argentina has been using CNG in a large percentage of their vehicles for years. It's not rocket science. The fact that many areas of the country are served by pipelines makes infrastructure upgrades less problematic. You should see what a diesel truck does when fed an injection of natural gas along with its normal diesel. Personally I believe that we should be using everything at our disposal to become energy independant. Don't buy into the idea that Canadas gas reserves are decreasing either. Ask about the Horn river field. Truth is...we are sitting on an asset that can ease our transition to the future.