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Published May 23, 2011, 09:15 AM

Pickens points to natural gas

It’s been two months since the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. The nuclear crisis in Japan caused by the damaged reactors since has created doubts on the future of nuclear power. Until the natural disaster occurred, the world seemed on track to see a surge in nuclear reactor projects.

It’s been two months since the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. The nuclear crisis in Japan caused by the damaged reactors since has created doubts on the future of nuclear power. Until the natural disaster occurred, the world seemed on track to see a surge in nuclear reactor projects.

In the U.S., there are 104 nuclear reactors, which provide an estimated 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. These reactors are becoming old as there has not been any new construction of nuclear reactors in some 30 years Even with government subsidies, investment money has been slow to come to this market. More concerning is the lack of technology to safely and properly dispose of the nuclear waste.

I suspect Japan will think twice before approving new nuclear power plants in the future. In the U.S., nuclear energy accounts for about 20 percent of our energy, coal represents about 35 percent, oil or fossil fuel accounts for about 20 percent and natural gas, which runs cleaner, about 24 percent. Coal will be the first energy to be replaced because of its affect on the environment. It has been thought that ethanol and other forms of green energy perhaps would replace coal someday. Next, since 9-11, it has become a popular opinion to replace fossil fuels to reduce our dependency on fuel coming from countries that house terrorists that wish to do the U.S. harm. Will nuclear energy be added to the list because of safety concerns?

The U.S. has reserves of natural gas that are much larger than Saudi Arabia’s crude oil reserves. Converting to natural gas to fuel autos, trucks and ships along with electrical power plants will take time. However, while it will take time, we have the huge trade deficit that continues to catch the attention of economists and the public.

By 2050, conventional cars are forecast to be banned from London and all other cities across Europe under the European Union’s master plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent. If the plan comes to fruition, I would expect a change to take place in other countries to find alternatives to green energy. I find it hard to imagine cars being banned, but I do think the push is under way to find better and more efficient forms of energy. A move toward natural gas allows for continued efficiency offered by fossil fuels but presents a cleaner-burning fuel option.

Major oil companies already have taken action as a hedge to the problem that may face them in the future. Oil reserves are depleting and only will get tighter with time. It is said that peak oil production occurred several years ago.

In October, Futures magazine carried an article on T. Boone Pickens and his plan that calls on the federal government to transition all federal government vehicles and over-the-road 18-wheel trucks to natural gas. At the time, legislation was in the works to become law. Currently, the price of natural gas is cheap compared with crude oil mainly because of the abundance of supply in the U.S.

Pickens fears that if the U.S. does nothing, in 10 years, we could be looking at $300-per-barrel crude oil. Electric energy does not seem to be an option as batteries probably would not move an 18-wheeler. It appears that the only solution to our future energy problems is natural gas.

Pickens estimates that the U.S. is sitting on 4,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is equivalent to 700 billion barrels of oil and three times what the Saudis have. Why do we sit here and do nothing? Pickens has a point.

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