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Top scientist slams Pickens plan for aggravating the natural gas crisis

September 9th, 2008 · 1 Comment

An interesting article from one of the best blogs on alternative energy. Top US scientist Brent Nelson sees much good in the T Boone Pickens energy plan to wane the US off (foreign) oil (we wrote about it earlier, here and here). However, he doesn’t like it’s dependency on natural gas, the US has already used up half of it’s gas, he argues. Apparently, natural gas is even scarce there where it is cheap, the US.


  • 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 viewing season arrives, it may be hard to distinguish between the kinds of immorality trumpeted during the TV commercial breaks that shoulder aside T. Boone’s diatribes. Nelson’s conclusions about the Pickens Plan are worth keeping in mind as an example of how a TV spot can have some truth and something more insidious.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Oil supply issues will remain // Sep 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    […] Notice he doesn’t think natural gas would help, but that’s for transportation problems. Boone Pickens who devised an energy plan has a solution for that, switch cars massively to natural gas (and substitute natural gas in electricity production to wind energy), although we ran a story with a top scientist arguing nat gas would not cut it for transportation. […]