A few decades ago the United States was a major exporter of crude oil, whereas now it continues to import an increasing amount (60 percent from OPEC). Further, 75 percent of crude oil is used for highway transportation and of this amount, 43 percent is consumed by passenger cars, according to the U.S. Transportation Energy Fact Sheet.
Future vehicles will need a fuel other than gasoline from crude oil due to ever decreasing supplies of crude, some from politically unstable countries. The U.S. Department of Energy does not appear to be addressing this problem with a comprehensive plan and timetable for a sustainable transportation system.
There are several alternative fuel candidates, such as ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, diesel from coal (a method used by Germans in World Wide II), hydrogen (that is, fuel cells), all electric vehicles, natural gas (liquefied natural gas (LNG)), and compressed natural gas (CNG). This post treats CNG.
Possible Solution: Natural gas is readily available in the United States., which possessed 2,552 trillion cubic feet of it in 2009. Based on the United States rate of consumption at 22.8 trillion cubic feet per year, there is enough to last nearly 110 years. That period could be considered sustainable for those with a “next quarter” mindset.
As of 2009 there were 11.2 million natural gas vehicles worldwide. Pakistan, Argentina, Iran, and Brazil each have more than 1 million such vehicles. The Asia-Pacific region has 5.7 million and Latin America has 4 million. CNG vehicles in the United States are limited primarily to 130,000 buses.
Bi-fuel (gasoline/CNG) vehicles are found in Europe where either fuel can be selected from a dashboard switch. Peugeot, Toyota, Honda and others manufacture bi-fuel cars. “Any existing gasoline vehicle can be converted to a bi-fuel vehicle. Authorized shops can do the retrofitting. This involves installing a CNG cylinder in the trunk, plumbing, a CNG injection system, and the electronics, according to Wikipedia’s article on natural gas vehicles. Adding more bi-fuel vehicles to the U.S. fleet could be a starting point in the transition to extensive CNG technology deployment.
Business Development Issues
“On December 16, 2010, the Department of Energy announced that it was accepting applications for up to $184 million over three to five years to accelerate the development and deployment of new efficient vehicle technologies.” Eight technology areas of interest were cited. None explicitly addressed CNG. Given overseas progress in CNG vehicle deployment, why did the Department of Energy explicitly ignore this technology?Tags: Bi-Fuel, CNG, Compressed Natural Gas, Foreign Oil