Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pickens' Audacious Wind-for-Gas Plan Flawed?

UPDATE: Environmental Capital alerts us to another instanalysis, this one from Energy Outlook.

Some of the less rah-rah reaction to the multimedia roll-out of the "Pickens Plan".
First up, from CNBC:
Boone Pickens’ plan to massively expand wind production to free up more natural gas for vehicles is an audacious suggestion but it faces a key challenge rooted in natural gas’ virtue as a clean and versatile fuel for utilities to generate electricity.

Some analysts suggested that the plan, which was formally announced Tuesday by the oilman-turned-wind entrepreneur, was flawed by dubious assumptions about natural gas remaining cheap, and that while well meaning, the plan was also ultimately self-serving.

“I don’t think this is a viable plan,” said Clay Perry, of the Electric Power Research Institute, whose members generate 90 percent of the country’s electricity.

Underestimating Natural Gas

One key virtue of natural gas power plants is the critical ability to supply ‘peaking capacity’ —electricity needed to quickly meet surges in demand, such as air-conditioning use in the summer time, he explained. Wind -- along with coal and nuclear power -- has no such capability. It is also an intermittent energy source, although this shortcoming could be mitigated by future advances in battery storage technology....MORE
Video: Pickens' Plan Feasible?

Next, Joe Romm at Climate progress weighs in with "Memo to T. Boone Pickens: Your energy plan is half-brilliant, half-dumb":

...Seriously, though, it’s great that gazillionaire TBP is talking up peak oil and joining the wind power bandwagon (see “Wind Power — A core climate solution“). And it’s great he plans to spend tens of millions of dollars pushing this idea and delivering the mesage that $15 billion dollars for the wind production tax credit is peanuts compared to the $700 billion this country is going to spend on foreign oil this year.

But if you want to displace oil, the obvious thing to do is use of the wind power to charge plug-in hybrids (see “Plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution“), multiple models of which will be introduced into the US car market in two years. Indeed, with electric utilities controlling the charging of the plug-ins, they can make optimum use of variable windpower, which is mostly available at night time. That would be win-win-win.

The Pickens Plan, however, is based on the utterly impractical idea that “Harnessing the power of wind to generate electricity will give us the flexibility to shift natural gas away from electricity generation and put it to use as a transportation fuel.”

Uhh, never gonna happen, T. Boone. Never. The most obvious reason is the gross inefficiency of the entire plan.

Right now, “We currently use natural gas to produce 22% of our electricity.” Most of that electricity comes from gas burned in combined cycle gas turbines at an overall efficiency of up to 60%. Why in the world would the federal government — or anyone else — spend billions and billion of dollars on natural gas fueling stations and natural gas vehicles in order to burn the gas with an efficiency of 15% to 20%? Natural gas is simply too useful and expensive to squander in such a fashion....MORE
(Thanks to Dr. Hazlett at the CEP for the heads-up)

Smart Money says:

Foreign Oil Cheaper Than Pickens Plan

TO THE MANY WACKY subplots of the current drama — the dollar junked, the Bear skinned, both of the Dow's Generals court-martialed — add this one: a Texas oilman souring on sweet old-fashioned crude, to the delight of the Sierra Club.

Folksy octogenarian billionaire T. Boone Pickens has been a veritable PR whirlwind in recent days in support of the Pickens Plan, which promotes federal alternative energy incentives at the expense of that hobgoblin, foreign oil.

Imported oil implies a pesky dependence on foreigners we're not to trust, though many of them trust us to supply their food. We've also built an expensive Navy to secure all that crude and staked our reputation on free flow of the stuff. Nevertheless, $4-a-gallon gas certainly corrodes the myth of a self-sufficient Fortress America, a land of plenty that never need buy anything from anyone except out of the goodness of its heart....CONTINUED

Finally, earth2tech has a look at the pluses and minuses of Nat. Gas:

10 Things You Should Know About Natural Gas Vehicles

T. Boone Pickens laid out his grand ‘Pickens Plan’ on Tuesday (accompanied by a Web 2.0 media blitz) with the suggestion that natural gas could provide over a third of U.S. transportation fuels. While natural gas vehicles (NGVs) have been used for awhile in city-owned car and bus fleets, and even a selectively sold consumer car, the Honda Civic GX, natural gas hasn’t been getting as much attention as other forms of alternative vehicles recently from the big car companies and innovative startups. Electric grid-to-vehicle technology and biofuel vehicles have both received a lot more attention from the investment community, the media and interested entrepreneurs.

But there are a lot of opportunities — as well as a variety of drawbacks — for vehicles that are powered by natural gas. Here’s our take and 10 things you should know about natural gas-powered vehicles:

1). Infrastructure bottleneck: Like the “hydrogen highway” compressed natural gas vehicles need fueling stations....
2). Greenhouse Gas Reductions:...
3). “Natural gas is the cleanest transportation fuel available today”:...
4). Natural gas is still a fossil fuel:...
5). The Honda Civic GX:...

And five more.