The Quiet Energy Revolution
Source: The American
The 20th century was the century of oil. Wars were fought over it, and the outcomes of the century’s biggest conflicts hinged on the stuff. In World War I, for instance, Churchill’s conversion of the British Navy to oil gave the crown’s ships supremacy over German vessels. In World War II, when the Nazis and Japanese each failed to secure supplies of oil, they were doomed. Later, President Ronald Reagan, CIA Director William Casey, and America’s Middle Eastern partners manipulated global oil production to bankrupt the Soviet Union and win the Cold War. In the first half of the century, oil policy served as the catalyst for military victory. In the second half, oil helped propel the greatest economic expansion in the history of the world, and liberated mankind from the tyranny of immobility.
All hail oil! But not too much, because the 21st century won’t be defined by oil. It is more likely to be defined by a different fossil fuel: natural gas…
…Natural gas may also change how we drive, and enable ordinary consumers to break oil’s monopoly on transportation. As my colleague, Peter Huber, notes in a recent Manhattan Institute report, “Gas-handling technologies [have] improved quite enough to make natural gas a practical alternative” to oil. After all, gas is cheaper than gasoline and diesel per unit of energy. That’s why large stationary power plants that used to run on oil switched to natural gas long ago.
The chief obstacle to developing a natural gas infrastructure capable of supplying service stations and highway rest stops is regulatory. If that is removed—and here we do need government action—we could expect to see trucks, buses, and cars running on natural gas in a relatively short period of time. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be considerable.
We may also see continued inroads of gas into the electricity-generating sector (which can also affect transportation as we move to hybrid and electric vehicles). Gas emits about half as much carbon per unit of energy as coal. With worries about long-term gas supplies allayed, expect regulators and utilities to favor construction of new gas-fired power plants over controversial coal plants, which are more expensive to build anyway. This same thing happened during the 1990s, and gas shot to a 20 percent share of America’s electricity economy as a result.
Read the whole thing… then add your comment below, or over at our Facebook page. What do you think – is LNG a viable transportation fuel, or will it always be relegated to highly controlled and well-maintained systems like power plants – venturing out on the roads only in bus fleets and corporate utility companies?