Craig Wright was one of the most ardent advocates for compressed natural gas I’ve ever met.
CNG Interstate got its start in Utah, but quickly established a foothold in Edmond. Last year, Wright told me the business had grown by about 500 percent in less than a year.
We’ve talked a number of times since then, each time making it clear that Wright truly believed natural gas was a viable alternative to gasoline and diesel.
Nothing proves that more than our last visit, when Wright showed off a 23-foot ski boat he had modified to run on natural gas.
He had hoped to get the Malibu Wakesetter on the water shortly after our visit in late March, but he was confident it would meet expectations.
Wright also talked excitedly about his plans to use CNG in recreational vehicles to create a fuel-efficient rental fleet for adventure-seeking travelers.
It sounds like a workable plan, but someone else will have to make it work now.
I hope it happens.
I’d like to take a trip in CNG-fueled RV someday.
ALSO: Wright is survived by his wife and five children, with one more on the way. Friends are raising money to help support the family as it copes with its loss.
Oklahoma State University held its 7th Annual Energy Conference on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, and our man Jay F. Marks (@okenergybeat) was a tweeting machine. You can read his dispatches below and check out Energy Editor Adam Wilmoth’s recap of the conference here. For the speaker presentations, go here.
A new documentary on energy, “Switch,” is getting good reviews from both environmentalists and those in the energy industry.
I had the chance to see it last night at a screening in Oklahoma City. (It continues tonight and Thursday.)
I’ve seen the controversial fracking film “Gasland” and the energy industry’s response, “Truthland,” so my tolerance for talking points on both sides of the debate was fairly low. I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and measured tone of “Switch.”
The movie, which was made with the help of the American Geosciences Institute foundation, follows geologist and University of Texas professor Scott Tinker around the world as he explores where and how our energy is harvested. It includes some spectacular shots of massive coal mines in Wyoming, hydro projects in the fjords of Norway and wind farms in Texas.
“Switch” also features a short interview with Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon and follows a Chesapeake “fracking” crew out in the field. The documentary doesn’t shy away from discussing the public concerns about hydraulic fracturing and has interviews with environmentalists, policy makers and industry officials.
But “Switch” is more than just fracking. It takes a comprehensive look at the world’s energy needs, with a particular emphasis on the rapidly growing demand for energy in China, India and other developing countries. The takeaway? Those countries will be using coal and oil to meet their future energy needs, and there’s little the developing world can do about it.
It doesn’t take long for serious discussions about energy to get complicated, but “Switch” boils down all the talk of megawatts and BTUs to a simple unit: the amount of energy an average person uses in a year. (If you’re curious, Tinker defines it as about 20 million watt-hours of energy.) From an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico to a concentrated solar plant in Spain, the movie defines the energy produced in terms of how many people it would power.
For all the technology improvements in energy, “Switch” makes it clear that it comes down to scale. A technology advancement or discovery might be great, but if you can’t scale it up to serve large numbers of people, then it will remain a niche solution. Through a combination of renewables and nuclear power, the film estimates the world will reach a “switch” point in 2064. That’s when the use of renewables and nuclear will match the use of “foundational” fuels coal and oil.
The last part of “Switch” focuses on energy efficiency and what individuals can do at home to save money–and energy. The efficiency side of the equation is often forgotten about in the political fights over energy policy, but the film makes it clear that the energy we waste is just as important as the energy we
If you can’t make it to the remaining screenings in Oklahoma City, check out the “Switch” website, which has short videos and some highlights from the documentary.
When GOP delegates or others at this week’s Republican National Convention stop for a cup of coffee this week in Tampa, Fla., there’s a pretty good chance they’ll also end up with a lesson on compressed natural gas.
CNGnow.com, an advocacy organization supported by the natural gas industry, has a booth near the media area in the Tampa Convention Center. It is next door to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to be nominated as the Republican candidate for president later this week.
Norman Herrera, director of market development at Chesapeake Energy Corp., said the convention is a good forum for CNG advocates, who are reaching out to delegates who aren’t familiar with the alternative fuel.
He said advocates are spotlighting Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s work with other governors to increase demand for natural gas vehicles, as well as the fueling stations being built by state companies like OnCue Express and Love’s Country Stores and Travel Stops.
Oklahoma is home to more than 70 existing or planned fueling stations, but Herrera said Florida — which is the nation’s second largest user of natural gas — has only five.
He said Florida derives 62 percent of its electricity from natural gas so it is a “vibrant market” for CNG.
Herrera said CNG advocates are talking about fleet conversions, vehicle choices and fueling stations with delegates seeking a caffeine fix at the conference. Water is available at the CNGnow booth also.
Delegates also are being ferried to and from the airport on CNG-fueled shuttles, courtesy of America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
The CNGnow booth, which opened Monday, will be in Tampa until Thursday.
CNGnow is a combined effort of Chesapeake, the Pickens Plan, American Clean Skies Foundation, NGVAmerica, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and American Gas Association.
Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens chatted via Twitter for about half an hour Wednesday afternoon, answering questions about Oklahoma State University football, energy independence and even a loan request.
Pickens continued to call for increased use of domestic natural gas, which has been part of his eponymous Pickens Plan since its inception.
He maintained that demand for natural gas will increase, even if lawmakers fail to pass legislation like the NatGas Act to speed the process.
“Nat gas is a long term energy solution,” he said. “We need to use our own resources. Key is to increase demand in US.”
Pickens said the Marcellus Shale, which is found in parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York, is the biggest natural gas field in the U.S. He called it a “huge opportunity for America, jobs and domestic energy security.”
He said he is not opposed to natural gas exports, which could allow companies to get the best price for their product, but he would rather see
Pickens also endorsed TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project, which would transport oil from Canada and the northern United States through Cushing on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.
“We are extremely stupid if we don’t do the Keystone Pipeline,” he said. “Extremely important to our country.”
Pickens sidestepped a loan request, assuring Twitter user @Mpaff23 he could get a loan “somewhere.”
Pickens also predicted Oklahoma State’s football team would finish 9-3 this year, including a win over Iowa State — the only team to beat his alma mater last season as the Cowboys earned their first Big 12 championship.
Natural gas companies and fuel retailers aren’t the only ones pushing compressed natural gas as an alternative vehicle fuel.
Waste Management, a Houston-based refuse disposal and recycling company, on Friday opened a CNG fueling station in Conroe to serve its growing fleet of natural gas-powered trucks.
Waste Management currently operates five CNG-powered collection vehicles in the communities north of Houston, but the company expects to roll out an additional 35 in the area by the end of 2012, it announced Friday.
The public fueling station will refuel Waste Management’s local fleet and sell CNG to commercial fleets. It will be open to retail consumers soon.
“Since natural gas-powered collection trucks run cleaner and quieter, we’ve made the commitment to use more in our local operations and support them and our community by opening a public CNG station,” said Don Smith, area vice president for Waste Management’s Texas and Oklahoma region. “We are dedicated to providing our customers with outstanding service while doing business in the most sustainable manner possible.”
Waste Management currently has 28 CNG fueling stations, with plans to have 50 operating by the end of the year.
The company also is adding more CNG trucks to its fleet. It already includes more than 1,400 CNG trucks.
“In 2012, natural gas vehicles will represent 80 percent of our annual new truck purchases and continue for the next five years,” said Eric Woods, Waste Management’s vice president of fleet and logistics.
Company spokeswoman Lisa Doughty told The Oklahoman that Waste Management does not have any CNG trucks in Oklahoma at this point.
“While we know this is the direction we are heading, I do not have a time frame for when this might happen,” she said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. is converting its truck fleet to CNG. The company has opened fueling stations at several of its field offices to the public, while teaming with OnCue Express and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores to open more CNG stations in Oklahoma.
Houston-based oil and gas producer Apache Corp. also has opened several CNG stations, including one in Tulsa.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon didn’t mention Frito Lay by name Tuesday at the Oklahoma State University Energy Conference when he expressed optimism about the trucking industry’s future with natural gas.
Maybe he should have.
“The good news is that it’s a win-win for us, both in terms of our sustainability strategy and reducing our costs,” said Michael O’Connell, senior director of fleet capability at Frito-Lay. “The payback for the extra cost of the natural gas trucks is a year and a half, so it’s a little bit of a no-brainer. We retire approximately 125 tractors a year, and we plan to replace as many of them as we can with natural gas.”
He said it could take six to seven years to convert all of the company’s tractor-trailers.
Oklahoma native T. Boone Pickens has been a vocal advocate of converting the nation’s trucking fleet to run on CNG. It is a key component of his eponymous “Pickens Plan,” which he insists can help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Clean Energy Fuels, a company founded by Pickens, is working to establish a natural gas highway across the U.S. to bolster efforts to get trucking companies to switch to natural gas over diesel. That effort got a boost last year with a $150 million investment by Chesapeake.
Chesapeake has committed to invest $1 billion in a venture capital fund to boost demand for natural gas in transportation.
Increasing oil and natural gas production is spurring pickup sales, according to a report from USA TODAY and the Detroit Free Press.
“Every time we add a number of wells, we add a lease operator — and that requires a truck,” said Pat Gibson, vice president of Michigan-based West Bay Exploration.
General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and Toyota reported truck sales were up at least 10 percent in March or the first quarter, according to the report.
Don Johnson, GM’s vice president for U.S. sales, said a lot of the increase in heavy-duty truck sales can be attributed to the oil and gas industry.
An amendment meant to spur the conversion of the nation’s heavy trucking fleet to compressed national gas failed Tuesday to win enough votes to secure passage.
The amendment, part of a sweeping transportation bill, had more supporters than opponents in the Senate, but the 51-47 margin was short of the 60 votes needed for passage.
Despite the measure’s failure, CNG advocate T. Boone Pickens remained optimistic about the future of such legislation.
“I am gratified by the strong bipartisan majority vote for Nat Gas Act today. This legislation is a national priority. The question isn’t if it gets passed, it’s when. America has waited long enough for Washington to deliver on its promise to address the OPEC oil dependency problem.”
A bill by U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, remains alive in the House.
Honda is hoping to double sales of its compressed natural gas-fueled Civic, so it is asking some dealers to install pumps to sell the fuel, Bloomberg reports.
Steve Center, Honda’s U.S. vice president for environmental business development, said there needs to be more fueling stations to boost sales of the CNG Civic, the only dedicated CNG vehicle available in the U.S.
“If the dealer had a fueling station, it would really reduce some of that concern for the customer. It’s not our place to create infrastructure, but it’s a chicken-and-egg situation and we’re going to have to nurse that egg along.”