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    Tuesday, September 09, 2008


    Energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens’ energy plan, the one that has become a regular feature of TV’s commercial breaks this summer, proposes to end the U.S. addiction to oil. NewEnergyNews recently obtained a PowerPoint presentation from Brent P. Nelson, a veteran U.S. scientist in a top position at one of the Department of Energy (DOE)’s most important research laboratories, assessing the Pickens Plan.

    Nelson, who confidentially released the assessment on the condition it is understood to be his own expert opinion and not the official position of his therefore unnamed DOE lab, finds great benefit and great danger in Pickens’ proposals.

    The Pickens Plan has 2 parts, each involving a separate energy source. It would use wind energy as 20% of U.S. electricity and shift the natural gas the U.S. now uses for electricity to fuel compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.

    The summary of the good points Nelson sees in the Pickens Plan: (1) Investing in the development of wind energy, (2) reducing the use of natural gas to generate electricity, (3) the acknowledgement by an oil man that “we can’t drill our way out,” and (4) the need for a U.S. national energy plan.

    The summary of the problems he has with it: (1) Using natural gas for transportation, (2) substituting drilling for oil with drilling for gas, and (3) using natural gas for transportation.

    The first lines NewEnergyNews posted about the plan were these,
    on July 12:

    “Here’s the thing: Oil explorer and corporate entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens is pointing in the right direction. He’s shaken a lot of oil industry fossil fools mired in 1950s thinking. He sees clearly what’s happening in wind and he’s all over it.

    “He’s had this obsession with Compressed Natural Gas cars for years and it still doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out. Natural gas and liquified natural gas (LNG) are more likely to be a bridge to an electric grid powered by New Energies from the wind, the sun and the ocean. Transportation is more likely to transition from nonfood crop- and algae-biofuels and plug-in hybrids to all electric vehicles.

    ”But Pickens deserves a lot of credit for stimulating debate. He got more people talking about New Energy in conservative, fossil fuel-oriented corners of the media world than anybody has since Al Gore.”

    Nelson’s take on Pickens’ plan differs primarily from NewEnergyNews' take in that he has run the numbers and sees a coming peak gas crisis that could be as dire and economically burdensome for the nation as the peak oil crisis the U.S. is passing through right now.

    Nelson: “Natural gas is our next crisis…we’ve already used ~1/2 of our domestic gas…”

    Nelson points out the unique value natural gas has as a heating fuel: “No other fuel can heat your home as cleanly or efficiently!!!” Using it as a vehicle fuel is squandering a dwindling resource that is “…precious for our children and grandchildren.”

    Like NewEnergyNews, Nelson sees the future of transportation coming from electric vehicles and sees the dwindling natural gas supplies as too precious to be squandered on electricity generation or transportation: “Natural gas, as a space-heating fuel, has almost no alternatives…”

    Because of his sense of urgency about the need to preserve natural gas supplies, Nelson describes the natural gas dimension of Pickens’ plan as "immoral."

    As the election season gathers momentum and the fall TV viewing season arrives, it may be hard to distinguish among the kinds of immorality trumpeted during the commercial breaks that shoulder aside T. Boone's diatribes. Nelson's conclusions about the Pickens Plan are worth keeping in mind. They show how a TV spot or an energy plan can have both some truth and something more insidious.

    The Pickens Plan (click to enlarge)

    Why T. Boone Pickens’ Energy Plan Is Seriously Flawed
    Brent P. Nelson, August 6, 2008 (PowerPoint Presentation)

    Brent P. Nelson, veteran research scientist, top national laboratory; T. Boone Pickens, energy entrepreneur/author, The Pickens Plan; The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

    Nelson offers a unique and powerful assessment of what is good and what is bad about Boone Pickens’ widely heralded plan to (1) develop the wind energy resources of the Midwest to power the national electricity grid and (2) use U.S. natural gas resources as compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel for vehicles to (3) displace dependence on oil imports.

    From Nelson.

    - Pickens debuted his plan with much fanfare in July and continues to use his considerable wealth for media time to push his ideas to the public.
    - Nelson created his PowerPoint assessment of the Pickens Plan in August and it has just been passed to NewEnergyNews.
    - A DOE study released in Spring 2008 affirmed the practicality of the U.S. wind energy industry’s announced plan to provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030.

    - U.S.: Now obtains 1-to-2% of its electricity from wind energy.
    - U.S.: Now has approximately 150,000 CNG-fueled vehicles.
    - World: Now has 7-to-8 million CNG-fueled vehicles.

    - Pickens’ premises are that the U.S. spends $700 billion yearly to import oil, wind could replace most of the natural gas used to generate electricity and that gas could be used as CNG to fuel U.S. vehicles.
    - U.S. natural gas supplies: 20.5% to residential heating, 13.0% to commercial heating, 28.8% to industrial uses, 29.8% to electricity generation, 7.8% to gas fuels and 0.1% to fuel vehicles.
    - In the less hopeful evaluations, the U.S. may have only 23 years of natural gas reserves remaining. In the most optimistic evaluations, there could be almost a half-century of reserves (which is no volume on which to base an energy plan).
    - By Nelson's calculations, natural gas as source of supply for the electrical grid can be considered little more than a bridge to New Energy.
    - Carl Pope, veteran environmentalist and Executive Director of the Sierra Club, recently suggested CNG might be an interim solution for truck fuel.

    From Nelson. (click to enlarge)

    - Nelson, on why Pickens’ plan for the use of U.S. natural gas resources is “immoral”: “(1) Steals this precious and unique resource from future generations. (2) Accelerates our impending gas energy crisis. (3) Replaces our dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on foreign natural gas. (4) Delays our needed transition to transportation technologies not using liquid-fuels for moving people on the ground.”
    - Nelson’s “more rational plan”: “Decrease fossil fuels” and “Increase renewables: solar, wind, biodiesel, etc. and develop electric transportation”


    At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I want to first state that I am not an expert on any of this but I do have questions that I would like to pose to Mr. Nelson -
    1> My understanding of the Pickens Plan is that we should drill here, drill now to buy us more time and that the only point at which oil drilling would be replaced is when we have developed enough alternative energy sources, be it wind, natrual gas, solar, bio, etc., to replace oil and to heat our homes and power our vehicles. Is this not consistent with what Mr. Pickens has been saying?

    2> Mr. Nelson states that we've used half of our natural gas. When that statement is made, is he taking into consideration that there have been new means developed to obtain natural gas, such as being able to now obtain natural gas from shale rock?

    Please understand that I am not saying that Mr. Nelson is wrong, I'm just encouraging a little more research. It is my understanding that drilling for oil would not be replaced by ONLY drilling for natural gas, but by the use of many means of alternative energy. However, we must take the first step and the most immediate activities that can take place while other alternatives are perfected are to move to wind and cng. We have wonderful new opportunities on the horizon such as manufacturing fuel from switch grass and algae but those will take much more time to bring to the general public than what we have available. Mr. Pickens is not suggesting we stop on these alternatives but that we quickly move to the most viable ones right now.
    Also, as far as the information about shale rock is concerned, I encourage Mr. Nelson to pick up a copy of The Barnett Shale which discusses how we are now able to tap into a huge pocket of natural gas around the Ft. Worth area as well as in many new areas across our country.

    Like I said, I'm just encouraging more research before we take Mr. Nelson's findings as fact. I believe that calling Mr. Pickens plan to move off of foreign oil immoral is wrong and should not be done until more research is completed and all aspects are taken into account. At that point, I, personally, do not believe that anyone could call it immoral.

    At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


    (1) Southern California Edison (SCE) is leasing commercial rooftops and installing solar panels on them to feed the local grid in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. This is the very best bang for the buck. Look at the advantages: No land is used. No transmission lines need to be built. No waiting 4 to 5 years to build them. No power loss to transmit electricity long distances to where it is consumed. The power is fed directly into neighborhood grids. No need to shell out big bucks to upgrade the National Grid which would drive your electric bill higher. Take every city where there is enough cost effective sunshine, and do the same. Cover all commercial rooftops with solar panels. Then do schools, colleges, hospitals, government buildings, and residential rooftops, either leased by the local power company or installed by the owner. This is LOCALIZED electric power generation.

    (2) Implement a “Uniform Net Metering Act” to guarantee that anyone generating surplus electric power will be paid at least the going wholesale rate for it by local power companies. Some power companies already have variations of net metering, but many do not. The impact will be that solar, wind, biogas to electric, and other home and business power systems will be installed larger than they need to be, thus adding peak load and generating surplus power to the local grid and also creating quarterly revenue for the private owner.

    (3) Massive installation of solar roof panels on plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, cars and trucks, including long haul trailer roofs. Theses would interface with localized V2G parking systems that would either charge the vehicle or produce peak load power for the grid while parked. The vehicle owners local electric power account would be electronically debited or credited accordingly. Solar roofed vehicles in mass, parked in the sun all day long, would generate a sizeable amount of peak load power, which would generate energy credits or even revenue for the vehicle owner. This combined with the rapid development of next generation translucent solarvoltaic window panels and entire vehicle bodies covered with hi-tech solar paint, with long haul trailers generating a significant amount of solar power. Again, no land or transmission lines needed and no National Grid needed. Cost per mile: ELECTRIC way is cheaper: 7 to 1 over gasoline and 7 to 2 over natural gas as auto fuel.

    (4) Advanced, super-organized recycling systems to channel all local organic waste from homes, commercial buildings, restaurants, institutions, government offices, agricultural, food processing, wood working, building industry, municipal sewage and landfill, etc. into forms of localized energy production, such as biogas methane. With the fuel burned as natural gas for the local grid, and the exhaust and the nitrogen-phosphorous liquid effluent mitigated and fed to adjacent Algae production systems. With the oil in the algae made into locally produced biodeisel; the byproduct algae starch made into locally consumed ethanol; and the protein made into locally consumed animal feeds.

    (5) The mitigation and exploitation of all sources of sewage and manure from septic systems, dairy farms, poultry, hog and livestock operations into biogas digesters producing methane to generate electric power for local grids and surplus regional transmission. With the effluent again being used to feed adjacent algae production for additional power, liquid fuels, or animal feed.

    (6) The mitigation and exploitation of all existing fossil fuel and biomass burn power plants by the cycling of CO2 rich exhaust to feed adjacent algae production, with the potential to co-fire all or part of the algae as onsite power plant fuel, in the form of combustible ultrasound fractionated oil-rich algae slurry, to replace a portion of the conventional fuel being consumed by the power plants.

    (7) The mitigation and exploitation of all existing Corn ethanol refineries, and Sweet Sorghum ethanol refineries by leveraging the waste products of CO2, waste heat, waste water effluent, production power exhaust, to feed adjacent algae production, with the option to divert corn sugar and sweet sorghum sugar to the Solazyme method of growing algae in the dark, in adjacent digester tanks: To create feedstock for biodeisel for localized agriculture, ethanol for local and regional markets, biogas (a natural gas replacement) for production power and cogeneration to the local grid, and to produce byproduct high protein, algae based animal feeds to market with distillers grains. These algae products, produced in whatever proportion would be advantageous to supply local and regional markets.

    Again, the emphasis is on localized electric power production, localized transitional liquid fuel production, and localized animal feed production, mitigating and exploiting waste products into value added algae based fuels and feeds.

    (8) Consistent long term tax credits for renewables such as solar, wind, wave, geothermal, biomass and biogas to electric, and hydrogen and clean fuels to electric, etc.

    (9) Fast Tracking the award winning clean burning multi-fueled GREEN REVOLUTION ENGINE. This engine can burn any liquid or gaseous fuel, including hydrous ethanol, powdered biomass slurry, and ultrasound fractionated oil-rich algae slurry (In stationary applications, the exhaust to be recycled to grow more algae).

    (10) Hydrous Ethanol is ethanol mixed with 4% to 65% water. Existing engines can be modified to run on ethanol diluted with water. Louisiana is creating an experimental hydrous ethanol program that could be expanded to other states. Why: Phil Ratte, Mechanical Engineer, BME University of Minnesota said: “From 1981 to 1989, I worked with Herb Hansen, who had been an engineer on a WW II submarine, and a former captain of a nuclear submarine. We developed two prototype cars, a Ford Pinto Station Wagon and a Mitsubishi Sedan, that ran as well on 65 proof ethanol (2/3 water and 1/3 ethanol) as they did on unleaded regular gas.” Can we modify existing engines to run on ethanol and water? The answer is yes. Dongfeng, a major Chinese auto maker is introducing a car this year, with a slightly modified fuel system, that runs on 65% ethanol and 35% water. They claim hydrogen is formed. Toyota also has a similar hydrous ethanol prototype that produces on board hydrogen. We must use this technology now. The BTU argument that ethanol is inferior to diesel and gasoline is not valid. Pure ethanol is water soluble, has higher octane and a faster flame speed, and burns at a lower temperature with less heat loss. Dilute pure ethanol with 2/3 water, and you have a viable transition fuel in every way.

    (11) Fast Tracking the ultra clean GEET Fuel Processor that runs existing internal combustion engines and gensets on exhaust bubbled vaporized mixtures of 75% water and any combustible fuel, including gasoline, diesel fuel, biodiesel, ethanol, oil rich ultrasound fractionated algae slurry, and ethanol enhanced powdered biomass slurry. Search: GEET Fuel Processor. Search: BingoFuel (one word).

    (12) Fast Tracking hydrogen on demand for fuel cells from (A) Reforming ethanol (onboard vehicles) into hydrogen for fuel cells; (B) Water splitting (onboard vehicles) using Ultrasound and or Pulsed Width Modulation current, generated by conventional vehicle electric systems and vehicle solar body panels. QuantumSphere recently announced a breakthrough that increases hydrogen gas output in electrolysis systems by 300%, at 85% efficiency.

    **** Aureon Kwolek, Open Source, Publish Freely ****

    At 12:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

    I am all in favor for moving away from fossil fuel use, but Mr. Nelson is probably completely wrong about our being anywhere near "peak gas". Shale gas extraction is now increasing our gas reserves at a phenomenal rate. Look up Barnett, Woodford, Fayetteville, Marcellus, Haynesville, etc. shales.

    At 9:25 PM, Blogger Scottar said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    At 10:45 AM, Blogger Konrad Roeder said...

    As a Wikipedia editor, it would be nice to see this same article in a "reputable" source because Wikipedia editors cannot use blogs as a source. Is Nelson's PowerPoint presentation online somewhere?

    Peak gas certainly has happened already in 2005 according to Exxon's CEO, Lee Raymond.


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