Thursday, January 15, 2009
T. Boone Pickens and His Natural Gas Filling Stations
T. Boone Pickens hoped to leverage wind mills and television commercials into reducing American dependence on imported oil [and increase profits to his company]. Mr. Boone's own company, Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, the country's largest owner of natural gas filling stations, sponsored his $19 million ad blitz last year. Boone's plan was to build enough wind turbines to significantly reduce natural gas used to produce electricity. His plan then envisioned that the saved natural gas would be used in transportation vehicles. Unfortunately the financial markets crash killed his 30% equity and 70% debt plans for constructing the wind turbines.
The weakness in T. Boone Pickens' plan was always the fact that you could not build enough wind turbines to significantly reduce natural gas used to produce electricity. It takes enormous quantities of natural gas to provide 'base-load' electricity. In fact, the Center believes that as little natural gas as possible should be used to produce base load electricity. Because circumstances have made it difficult to build new coal and nuclear power plants, natural gas is the fuel of choice. And although natural gas futures happen to be going down right now, natural gas can get to be very expensive very fast. Plus natural gas powered vehicles did not catch on the first time around and probably would not now. The big car companies are basing their future plans on gasoline/battery hybrid electric vehicles, not natural gas powered vehicles. Pickens talks about trucks using natural gas, but diesels rule the big truck market and will continue to do so.