Friday, March 16, 2012

Natural Gas Bridge - The End of the Beginning or the Beginning of the End?

Natural Gas as a "bridge fuel" was heralded by mainstream environmental groups as the best thing since sliced bread, the way to "the future" in a move to get us off coal quickly without having to call the public to invest much or make difficult commitments. 

Its still being sold that way too.

In a way its working - coal is leaving US power production (and being shipped for use overseas with much mope shipping planned.)

Where big green environmentalists pictured a temporary alliance with natural gas as a necessary evil, natural gas producers had a much longer bridge and a bit more permanent solution in mind. 

First they installed long term generation capability (blog post)

Most electric generating capacity additions in the last decade were natural gas-fired - 2010

Now they are moving to the transportation sector:

Chesapeake, GE to roll out refueling stations for gas-powered vehicles

Chesapeake Energy and GE have announced plans to deploy GE's "CNG In A Box" units at service stations and convenience stores. The units would dispense compressed natural gas to vehicles that can burn it. The first of the 250 planned units could be in place by this fall.

CNG In A Box takes natural gas from a pipeline and compresses it on-site at an industrial location or at a traditional automotive refilling station to then turn it into CNG. A CNG vehicle, such as a taxi, bus or small truck, can then refill its tank using a traditional fuel dispenser, much like those used for diesel or gasoline refueling.  The fuel dispenses at the rate roughly equivalent to seven gallons of gasoline a minute.

The Infrastructure for such built by the fracking and NG electric conversion boom. Thats not he only partnership with Chesapeake, or the only expenditures promoting natural gas:

Chesapeake, 3M To Develop CNG Tanks For Transportation
Chesapeake Energy has agreed to work with technology firm 3M to produce and market compressed natural gas tanks for the US transportation sector.

Chesapeake said it will invest an initial $10 million in design and certification services and market development, and will use the new tanks for its corporate fleet. The money will come from Chesapeake NG Ventures, a unit that plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years in a number of programs designed to increase demand for natural gas.

Auto makers have jumped on board as well as our representatives in the Federal Government:

More natural gas autos hit market

Starting in July, Chrysler will sell a Ram 2500 Heavy Duty pickup that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG). The truck has both gasoline and natural gas storage tanks, and the engine shifts automatically between the two, without the driver needing to push a switch. The truck can run for 255 miles on natural gas and the range is extended to 367 miles using gasoline. Once the CNG tanks are empty, the vehicle shifts to gasoline. The dashboard has fuel gauges for both.

Chrysler will have competition. Late this year, General Motors Co. will sell natural-gas versions of two pickups — the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD. The GM trucks will run on gasoline and natural gas for 650 miles. Ford Motor Co. has offered natural-gas ready pickups and vans since 2009.

Ironically or not so much, it was oil interests that worked behind the scenes to defeat the latest pro gas initiatives:

Senate defeats tax break for natural gas trucks

Conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity had put senators on notice that they would be tracking who voted for the bill.

The groups have said the natural gas program might not generate enough money to pay for the subsidies and argued the private sector should adopt the vehicles as it sees fit.

Oil interests already receive monstrous subsidies of course and are environmentally disastrous, Chesapeake Energy is not much different when you get down to it, so its rather like vultures fighting over a putrefying corpse.

With its current momentum natural gas will eventually win, oil will probably too in a pipeline deal for that matter, big green like Greenpeace will go on enjoying the conflict, profiting from the controversy but doing nothing to make it better, and via their support of the anti nuclear movement probably make it much worse. As they did in Germany. 

Incidentally I was kinda not very surprised researching the nuclear pullout in Germany; Its founder, or "engineer" was former Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder.

World: Europe Germany plans to scrap nuclear power- Monday, December 14, 1998

So in late 1990s while chancellor he planed the withdrawal from nuclear power. As Chancellor, he was also a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, which was recently completed. After leaving government service he has become the chairman of Nord Stream AG Shareholders’ Committee and was also made a global manager for the Rothschild investment bank.

But Back in 2005 immediately after leaving German government service this wonderful article appeared:

Schroeder Accepts Russian Pipeline Job

BERLIN, Dec. 9 -- Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder landed a job Friday as board chairman for a Russian-German gas pipeline that he championed while in office, a post that deepens his already close relationship with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. ( )

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Germany also went on to use NG in autos. The point of this being that although there possibly is a total slight reduction in greenhouse gases from NG use, the over all cost of leaks (which even in some urban areas are quite pronounced ), and even the manufacturing for conversion, push emissions way beyond the problems we have now and commit us to a future of fossil fuels. By providing cheap available carbon it also eliminates incentive for all-electric vehicles that could utilize clean-energy for power.

Not that there was ever enough resources available or slated for growth to seriously push a renewable energy position in the near term that could effectively replace coal or provide energy to the transportation sector, a situation many who publicly opposed nuclear power probably knew.  Yet they embarked on this path, if not intentionally, now knowing full well where it will eventually lead.

A commitment to high emissions over a long period.  

In closing let me quote a recent post by G Monbiot:

....To suggest phasing out nuclear power when the world is faced with a climate change crisis is utter madness. It shows that some people have lost sight of which goal is the more important... 

...It is not a question of nuclear or renewables or efficiency. To prevent very dangerous levels of climate change, we will need all three. This was made clear by the Committee on Climate Change, which showed that the maximum likely contribution to our electricity supply from renewables by 2030 is 45%, and the maximum likely contribution from carbon capture and storage is 15%. If nuclear power does not make up most of the remainder, the gap will be filled by fossil fuel.... 

...The environment movement has a choice. It has to decide whether it wants no new fossil fuels or no new nuclear power. It cannot have both. I know which side I’m on, and I know why. Anyone who believes that the safety, financing and delivery of nuclear power are bigger problems than the threats posed by climate change has lost all sense of proportion....

From  : No Primrose Path - March 15, 2012


Germany to fund new coal plants with climate change cash - 13 Jul 11

 Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field Methane leaks during production may offset climate benefits of natural gas.-

Abandoning nuclear energy may not boost renewables- 14:18 02 April 2012


  1. An article from The Economist about rare earth elements and how their scarcity may constrain the growth of wind energy and electric vehicles:

  2. There was never enough to seriously deploy wind energy and make necessary clean energy - I think many knew this. Thank you - Ill add it.

    1. Hi jtt,

      I followed your tip to look at this, from the post you put on Joe Romm's blog here:

      Actually, I put up another comment on Joe's blog, but after it being awaiting moderation for 5 days, Joe Romm has decided to remove my post. However, I decided to cross-post my comment to Atomic Insights. Here is the copy of the comment that Joe Romm decided to delete:

      [begin comment]

      Joe Romm should have explained *why* costs of new nuclear power plants in some parts of the world have risen so much. It is a fascinating piece of history, that should have been given more attention. Otherwise, people won’t understand how there can be such a thing as a “negative learning curve” for nuclear power, which is something that is actually an anomaly in human history, worthy of carefull study.

      A summary of the issue is given here:



      “Regulatory ratcheting is really the political expression of difficulties with public acceptance. In an open society such as ours, public acceptance, or at least non-rejection, is a vital requirement for the success of a technology. Without it, havoc rules.

      It is clear to the involved scientists that the rejection of nuclear power by the American public was due to a myriad of misunderstandings. We struggled mightily to correct these misunderstandings, but we did not succeed.

      By the mid-1980s the battle was over. Groups that had grown and flourished through opposition to nuclear power went looking for other projects and soon found them. Many of them learned to distinguish between trivial problems and serious ones like global warming and air pollution. Some of them have even made statements recognizing that nuclear power is a solution to some of those problems.

      The regulatory ratcheting, of course, has not been reversed. But the nuclear industry is now developing new reactor designs that avoid most of the problems this regulatory ratcheting has brought. It is relatively easy to accommodate regulations in the initial design stages. Moreover, the new designs go far beyond the safety goals that drove the regulatory ratcheting. The nuclear industry absorbed the message that the public wants super-super safety, and they are prepared to provide it. The next chapter describes how this will be done.”

      [end comment]

      Cross posted here:

    2. Thank you for the source, I expected as much, I think we all did. I will need to read over it in more detail as I am particularity interested in how we arrived where we are on this matter.

      When I first started this blog over a year ago I was probably borderline anti nuclear power to be honest, having been exposed to the constant refrain and it being the beginning of the Fukushima situation. But I had read where a climate scientist was still advocating nuclear power and thought I should take a closer look at the issue. As I did, following the actual reviewed science and medical studies, It became clear, at first it seemed there was a good deal of misrepresentation of nuclear power going on. Then reading more it became kinda overwhelming the length, what are probably good people, had gone to demonize what is a very legitimate and historically successful tool in energy emission control. It always seems to go back to fear of the complex and unknown.

      Its been a learning process.

  3. No Primrose Path
    March 15, 2012

  4. Gas rebranded as "green energy" by EU

    Victory for gas lobby as aims of €80bn EU innovation programme altered to channel money to 'low-carbon' fossil fuel ( )

    Of course Gas was behind the German nuclear pullout from the beginning:

    World: Europe Germany plans to scrap nuclear power- Monday, December 14, 1998
    ( )

    So in late 1990s while chancellor he planed the withdrawal from nuclear power. As Chancellor, he was also a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, ( ) to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, which was recently completed. After leaving government service he has become the chairman of Nord Stream AG Shareholders’ Committee ( ) and was also made a global manager for the Rothschild investment bank.( )

    But Back in 2005 immediately after leaving German government service this wonderful article appeared:

    Schroeder Accepts Russian Pipeline Job ( )