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.
Aubrey McClendon’s new exploration and production venture American Energy Partners, LP has put up two billboards on NW 63 announcing that the company is now hiring.
The signs are near NW 63 and Interstate 235 and NW 63 at N. Harvey Avenue — right across the street from American Energy Partners’ new headquarters in the Harvey Parkway office building.
The Oklahoman broke the story last week about McClendon’s new energy company.
The company’s website, www.ae-lp.com, also has been updated and now contains more information on McClendon’s vision for the venture.
As always, McClendon is dreaming big.
“We’re looking for the industry’s best and brightest to join our team and help build a best-in-class E&P company to create significant value for our partners, our employees, our community and our country,” the website says.
McClendon is looking to make American Energy Partners a new “industry leader,” according to the website.
“We are a start-up, but we are ready to make our mark,” the website says.
McClendon’s separation agreement prohibits him from poaching employees from Chesapeake. But those billboards have to be pretty hard to miss for Chesapeake workers who take I-235 to work and get off at NW 63.
The ongoing investigation of one of the nation’s largest truck stop chains has nothing to do with Oklahoma City’s Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores.
Love’s added 40 locations when the two former rivals merged in 2010, but founder Tom Love on Monday used the fraud allegations as an opportunity to reiterate the company’s business practices in a letter to all Love’s employees.
“Since the founding of our company 50 years ago, we have always strived to run our business in a straightforward and transparent manner. Our core values -customer focus, integrity, strong work ethic, innovation and perseverance – are the foundation on which I built this company. These are also the values that guide our everyday actions, decisions and behavior as employees. Nothing is more important than focusing on meeting the needs of our customers.
Our employee base, from sales teams to drivers to store cashiers, is made up of talented professionals who are respected for their kmowledge of the trucking and transportation industry we serve. Our approach to working with customers and potential customers reflects the same core values we all abide by at Love’s, and we are all held to the highest standards of accountability for our actions.
Moving forward, I encourage you to continue taking care of our customers with the same core values they have come to expect from us. Let’s be difference-makers today.”
Love’s. which was founded in 1964, has more than 290 locations in 39 states. It has about 10,000 employees.
Newly completed research by the Coordinating Research Council indicates increased ethanol in gasoline could damage the fuel systems in millions of vehicles manufacturing since 2001, the American Petroleum Association said Tuesday. The council is an organization supported by the oil and automotive industries.
Bob Greco, API’s director of downstream and industry operations, said earlier testing showed E15 could harm valve and valve seat engine parts.
“The additional E15 testing, completed this month, has identified an elevated incidence of fuel pump failures, fuel system component swelling, and impairment of fuel measurement systems in some of the vehicles tested. E15 could cause erratic and misleading fuel gauge readings or cause faulty check engine light illuminations. It also could cause critical components to break and stop fuel flow to the engine,” Greco told reporters in a conference call. “Failure of these components could result in breakdowns that leave consumers stranded on busy roads and highways. Fuel system component problems did not develop in the CRC tests when either E10 or E0 was used. It is difficult to precisely calculate how many vehicles E15 could harm. That depends on how widely it is used and other factors. But, given the kinds of vehicles tested, it is safe to say that millions could be impacted.”
The American Coalition for Ethanol dismissed the CRC results, maintaining motorists have nothing to fear from ethanol in their fuel.
“This is just another ghost story, told by people who stand to lose market share when consumers finally have access to E15,” said Ron Lamberty, the group’s senior vice president. “We shouldn’t be surprised at Big Oil’s latest attempt to scare consumers — they’ve shown no shame in twisting test results to protect their market share. There is a reason that the oil companies don’t want E15 and it has everything to do with protecting the bottom line and nothing to do with protecting consumers.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year allowed retailers to use a higher blend of ethanol in their gasoline, but E85 is not widely available in Oklahoma.
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.
Prices and patriotism seem to be the biggest factors when it comes to consumer and voter attitudes on energy, according to a poll released today by the University of Texas at Austin.
The online poll, which surveyed more than 2,300 people in March, found 81 percent of respondents thought gasoline prices were “very high.” That compared to 69 percent who thought so in the first edition of the survey back in September.
Meanwhile, 61 percent said they’d be more likely to back a presidential candidate who favored increased domestic energy production. Support for more natural gas development; incentives for renewable energy; increased energy research funding; and requirements for utilities to offer renewable power options all topped 50 percent, the survey found.
“We see a significant trend of increased pricing concerns and more support for domestic energy production across the board in this survey,” Wayne Hoyer, co-director of the survey and professor and marketing department chair at UT’s McCombs School of Business, said in a statement. “While most respondents expect prices to continue rising, they’re also more optimistic about our energy future, perhaps because of the abundance of natural gas and other domestic energy resources. These trends will be interesting to watch as we head into this fall’s elections.”
The poll asked several questions about hydraulic fracturing, with 62 percent saying they were unfamiliar or haven’t heard of the sometimes controversial practice to extract oil and gas. Among those who had heard about the process:
- 38 percent favor more regulation.
- 22 percent think existing regulations are sufficient but need better enforcement.
- 16 percent believe existing regulation and enforcement are sufficient.
- 14 percent say the technology is already over-regulated.
Respondents also said they favored growing the economy over environmental concerns. Asked to balance the two, 42 percent said the economy should be given priority, while 30 percent said the environment should be the top concern.
President Barack Obama didn’t take any questions from the press yesterday at his stop in Cushing, but he did grant an interview to AAA, the country’s largest driver advocacy organization.
Obama talked about his first car (a Ford Granada) and said he understood the pocketbook hit Americans were taking as gasoline prices continue to rise.
“I understand what folks are going through because it wasn’t that long ago that I was having to fill up my gas tank and drive to work, shuttle the kids back and forth to school or events. It takes a big bite out of folks’ paychecks,” Obama told AAA.
For more on the interview, check out AAA’s website.
Local TV is showing President Obama walking from Marine One to Air Force One at Tinker Air Force Base. He turns, smiles and waves. And with that, his Oklahoma visit concludes. Wonder if he’ll be back this year?
From Chris Casteel in our Washington bureau, the full remarks from President Obama this morning in Cushing.
More from Energy Editor Adam Wilmoth, on the scene in Cushing:
After the speech, Donna Schoenkopf of Tecumseh approached the president and said she was born in the same hospital in Hawaii as he was. Without skipping a beat, he responded with: “Do you have your birth certificate?”
The president has left Cushing and is en route back to Tinker Air Force Base, according to a pool reporter:
The President left the Cushing Pipe Yard at 11:16 local and headed back to the helos for the ride to Tinker AFB.
En route, passed slightly larger roadside crowds, some with “drill, baby, drill” signs, some with “Oklahomans for Obama,” “Stop Keystone,” “Tar Sands are Toxic.”
Motorcade arrived Cushing landing zone at 11:38 local. Marine One lifted off at 11:42 local.
Obama gave a shout-out to Oklahoma’s wind industry as he talked about his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy: “But we’re also going to be looking at how we can continue to improve utilization of new energy sources, new clean energy and becoming more efficient. That means producing more biofuels, that means more fuel-efficient cars, more solar power, more wind power, which nearly tripled here in Oklahoma … I want them here in the United States of America, that’s what an all-of the above strategy is all about.”
Per the White House pool reporter traveling with the president, a little detail about his arrival in Cushing today:
Marine One touched down at Cushing, Okla. landing zone at 9:43 local.
He got in the motorcade for the drive to the pipe yard, en route at 9:47. En route, passed some residents waving flags with cardboard signs “Welcome, Mr. President,” and some protesters with peace signs and placards calling drones “un-human.”
Further, larger contingent of people (maybe fifty) with signs “Keystone, Yes,” and “Socialism not welcome here.”
Here’s a link to Obama’s executive order that is supposed to speed up the federal permitting process for the pipeline.
Well, those were brief remarks. Obama spoke for about 10 minutes. As expected, the president talked about expediting the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. He said drilling isn’t the problem with gasoline prices right now; it’s more to do with fears in the world energy markets over possible conflict in Iran.
“We are drilling all over the place right now,” Obama said. “That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem. The problem is we’re producing so much but we don’t have enough pipeline capacity. There is a bottleneck right here because we can’t get oil to our refineries fast enough.”
President Obama is appearing now.
Photographers are darting to and fro in front of the live feed. We might be close.
The current view from the White House’s live stream of the Cushing event. Our own Adam Wilmoth says the rain has stopped, but it’s cold, overcast and windy.
Bloomberg has a good story on the permitting process for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline that President Obama will be talking about in a few minutes:
President Barack Obama’s promise to expedite review of the southern leg of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline won’t speed up the timeline for the project, which already is slated to start construction as soon as June.
TransCanada is awaiting permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last it needs to begin construction on the phase of the pipeline that will carry crude from the oil storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to Gulf Coast refineries, Terry Cunha, a spokesman for the Calgary-based company, said in an e-mail message yesterday.
The latest from Energy Editor Adam Wilmoth in Cushing:
Invited guests are beginning to file in. I spoke to Rep. Emily Virgin of Norman and Rep. Cory Williams of Stillwater. Both (Democrats) said it is an honor to have the president in the state and that they appreciate his endorsement of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which they say will lead to jobs and financial benefits to the state and country.
Williams said he was disappointed by the negative tone of Gov. Mary Fallin’s statement yesterday. In the statement, Fallin both welcomed President Obama and called him an obstructionist, criticizing his effort last month to block approval of the northern leg of the pipeline.
Gallup has a new poll out this morning showing a majority of Americans favor the Keystone XL pipeline. The poll shows 57 percent of respondents think the U.S. government should approve the pipeline. Another 29 percent were against approval, while 14 percent had no opinion.
Among political affiliation, 81 percent of Republicans were in favor, while 44 percent of Democrats backed the pipeline. Just over half (51 percent) of independents were in favor of the government approving the pipeline.
There was an interesting geographical breakdown, too. Approval was at 68 percent in the Midwest; 61 percent in the South and 52 percent in the West. Just 48 percent of those in the East favored approval of the pipeline.
A group of Native Americans and clean-energy advocates are also protesting Obama’s visit and his backing of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The group is concerned about the pipeline route over Native American burial grounds. From a press release in my inbox this morning from the Edmond-based Center for Energy Matters:
“The Ogallala Aquifer is not the only source of water in the plains,” said RoseMary Crawford, Project Manager of the Center for Energy Matters. “Tar sands pipelines have a terrible safety record and leaks are inevitable.”
“We can’t stop global warming with more fossil fuel pipelines,” added Crawford. “The people who voted for this President did so believing he would help us address the global environmental catastrophe that our pollution is creating. He said he would free us from ‘the tyranny of oil.’ Today that campaign promise is being trampled to boost the President’s poll numbers.”
U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, was on Fox & Friends this morning talking about the president’s visit. Sullivan is vice-chairman of the Energy and Power subcommittee of the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee.
“This is nothing more than a con job,” Sullivan said of Obama’s visit, which he called a photo-op.
As expected, the president isn’t getting much love from Oklahoma’s elected officials. Even Dr. Tom Coburn, his friend from the Senate, weighed in this morning, calling Obama’s energy policy “all hat and no cattle.”
“In word and deed, this administration has consistently expressed an illogical and ideological hostility to oil and gas. President Obama has even called oil the ‘fuel of the past’ even though government experts recognize our nation will rely on fossil fuels for nearly 70 percent of our energy needs through 2035. For better or worse, oil and gas are the fuel of the present. Oklahomans, in particular, understand that the Cushing facility is part of our future, not our past.”
This morning, we’ll be live-blogging the second leg of President Obama’s energy tour.
A few quick links to get started from this morning’s edition of The Oklahoman:
- The president arrived at Tinker Air Force Base last night, just after 9:30 p.m. Unfortunately, he missed the Thunder’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Capitol Reporter Michael McNutt has details on the president’s arrival here.
- Obama is expected to announce a fast-track regulatory approval of the Gulf Coast section of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline at Cushing, weather permitting. Chris Casteel reports from Washington.
- A few protesters were out yesterday in downtown Oklahoma City, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline and the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
- Energy Editor Adam Wilmoth talked to Cushing residents earlier this week about the president’s visit.
Meanwhile, Adam Wilmoth is in Cushing this morning. Obama is expected to fly by helicopter from Oklahoma City to Cushing. Here’s the latest from Wilmoth:
It’s still misting and sprinkling off and on, but the White House has decided to keep the speech here near Cushing as planned. They had discussed a backup location if the visibility were too poor for the President’s helicopter.
The lecturn and stage are set up, but covered in plastic to keep out the rain.
General Motors is jumping on the compressed natural gas bandwagon, announcing Monday it will begin taking orders next month for 2013 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab pickup trucks.
The bi-fuel trucks — which can run on gasoline or CNG — will be available for fleet and retail customers. Prices were not included in Monday’s announcement.
“The bi-fuel Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra provide customers with choices in advanced propulsion technology, and because CNG is a clean-burning, domestically produced fuel, it has wide appeal, “said Ed Peper, general manager, GM Fleet and Commercial Operations. “The addition of a full-size bi-fuel pickup truck to GM’s fleet portfolio is another milestone in putting the customer first in everything we do – by offering great products, innovative solutions and a great customer experience.”
Consumer Reports says the trucks have a CNG tank in the bed that looks like a large toolbox. The CNG filler resides under a flap on the left side of the tank, above the rail of the pickup bed. A 6.0-liter V8 engine can be switched from running on CNG to gasoline and back via a switch on the dashboard.
GM says the bi-fuel trucks are built with a specially designed engine, the fuel system is installed by GM’s Tier One supplier and the completed vehicle is delivered directly to the customer. This process makes ordering the bi-fuel option as seamless and efficient as a standard vehicle.
“The bi-fuel truck provides businesses with added re-fueling flexibility and eases consumer range concerns that typically come with CNG, all while reducing emissions and controlling costs,” said Joyce Mattman, director, GM Commercial Product and Specialty Vehicles. “This turnkey ordering process, combined with the best warranty in the industry for a commercial product, makes our bi-fuel truck an attractive option, especially for commercial customers.”
CNG could be an increasingly attractive alternative to gasoline, with the average price in Oklahoma at $3.548 a gallon on Monday, according to AAA. CNG sells for $1.85 a gallon at a number of Oklahoma City locations.