Revenge of Natural Gas?
Will natural gas kill the electric car? So asks Talking Points Memo, noting that the Argonne National Research Laboratory, ground zero for the U.S. Department of Energy’s research into electric and hybrid vehicles over the past two decades, is pushing into research of natural gas powered vehicles as natural gas prices drop and domestic supplies soar.
“Our conclusion is that natural gas as a transportation fuel has both adequate abundance and cost advantages that make a strong case to focus interest in the technology as a real game changer in U.S. energy security,” said Mike Duoba, an engineer at Argonne. “In terms of consumer ownership and use costs, the case to make a switch from current fuels to CNG is much more compelling than for other alternative fuels like ethanol and electricity,” Duoba added.
Compressed natural gas is a valid option from a national-energy-security standpoint: 87 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011 was produced domestically, with the rest coming from Canada and Mexico. But the fuel is hardly the solution to our dinosaur-based transportation woes. Natural gas is a better fuel environmentally than gasoline, but not by a lot. A natural gas powered vehicle like the Honda Civic Natural Gas (formerly called the Civic GX) only saves 25 percent on carbon emissions per mile compared to its comparable gasoline-powered counterpart, notes TPM. According to a 2010 report from MIT, “In general, 1,000 cubic feet (cf) of natural gas, converted to electricity, yields 457 miles in an EV. This same 1,000 cf in an NGV would only have a range of around 224 miles.”
Photo by iStock/jonmullen
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”