General Question

Joe_Freeman's avatar

Why has the U.S. never exploited its abundance of natural gas to use as a replacement for gasoline?

Asked by Joe_Freeman (504points) June 28th, 2009

Natural gas is cheap, much cleaner than gasoline, and can easily be adapted for use in gasoline-engined cars and other internal combustion engine applications. Plus, we don’t have to go to other countries to get it. It seems like a natural step for transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.

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24 Answers

sanari's avatar

It’s easier to take candy from other kids because when no one has any, you still do.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have always wondered about that myself. I am a bit of a cynic so I suspect the auto industry has something to do with it. Because gas burns so much cleaner the engines generally live longer and require less maintenance. Not to mention the oil companies themselves.

Our car runs on gasoline and gas and gas is definitely more economical, at least here in Australia.

TheCreative's avatar

I’m guessing maybe lots of companies would go out of buisness.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

natural gas first off isn’t as easy to manage as gasoline. It could cause problems. Secondly, and I’m not sure on this, I’m a bit rusty on the topic and don’t feel like doing research, but logically speaking I don’t think the US alone has enough natural gas to replace gasoline for any extended period. Perhaps 5 years or so, but I couldn’t imagine our country’s supply lasting much longer than that given the rate we burn through gasoline at least.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

That said, an aggressive push towards hydrogen is what I would like to see.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

Because car engines made today would not run of natural gas, and there would have to be a drastic change in their design to make them run off gas. That means years of R+D, mass development, changing the fuel supplying infrastructure, etc.

Also, we’re draining our natural gas supply pretty well for the sake of electricity already.

And lastly, why replace a cocaine habit with a heroin habit? We need something renewable, not another fossil fuel.

juwhite1's avatar

The oil industry has a very large lobby in congress, natural gas is not a good replacement for all of our energy needs (but is good for others), they are currently working to increase our use of the natural gas reserves in Alaska (with the help of yet another lobby), we are investing in finding better, renewable energy sources rather than tapping out our natural resources and degrading the earth’s natural balance even further… I think there are lots of reasons.

YARNLADY's avatar

According to the World Fact Book the US ranks 6 in the list of countries with natural gas reserves. That is approximately 3.5% of the estimated total world reserve of Natural Gas.

According to the wikipedia article “The major difficulty in the use of natural gas is transportation and storage because of its low density. Natural gas pipelines are economical, but are impractical across oceans. Many existing pipelines in North America are close to reaching their capacity, prompting some politicians representing colder areas to speak publicly of potential shortages.”

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 I was told that the U.S. has gobs of natural gas, no problem with supply.

@westy81585 The change needed to convert from gasoline to gas is minor and has been done for many municipal vehicles like buses and police cards. Gas-burning vehicles are all around us. Regarding cocaine and heroin, I was suggesting gas as a good interim solution, not an ultimate solution. The real solution is not coming soon.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Joe_Freeman I don’t see where the facts support what you were “told”.

phoenyx's avatar

The problems with alternatives like natural gas or hydrogen lie mostly with distribution.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

@Joe_Freeman The real solution is here now. We’re just too lazy to implement it.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@YARNLADY Check out (“New Report to Announce the Unprecedented Abundance of U.S. Natural Gas Supply”) to see what I’m referring to. This is new data.

@westy81585 What is your perception of “the real solution” to the energy problem? Mine is thermonuclear fusion, and its progress is not hampered by laziness, it’s hampered by limited funding and challenging scientific and engineering problems. At the current rate of funding and technological progress, we won’t get there for fifty years, and that’s an optimistic estimate.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Joe_Freeman Thank you, I stand corrected. My reference was dated January 2008.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

@Joe_Freeman Boy would that be nice (thermonuclear fusion). But no you don’t have to be that complicated to solve the problem. We already have the technology with hydrogen power, and more likely/importantly, electric cars (In fact we’ve had the electric car tech for the last decade+, but chose not to develop it).

Thermonuclear tech sounds great, but it’s overkill. We spent 5 million in funds to create a pen that would work in Zero G for NASA….. The Russians just used pencils.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@westy81585 The primary problem with electric cars, of course, is the batteries. They’re making progress but it’s slow. The Chevy Volt has a range of 40 miles before needing to burn fuel. How lame is that? No wonder GM has gone down the toilet; that’s where they belong!

As for fusion being overkill, I am not aware of any other energy technology that can do the job on a long-term basis. It uses hydrogen, of course, but not the vanilla variety.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

But at the rate that we would use it, it’s relatively low density resulting in a difficulty in transporting and storing, it’d be just as easy to put that research money into Hydrogen(has many of the same problems as natural gas except we’ll never run out of it). Keep in mind, natural gas is largely already used to heat homes, so if you add that to the pure amount of it we’d use for transportation and the like, it’d get dried up faster than you’d expect.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

@Joe_Freeman Look up Tesla…. their cars are entirely electric, and have much larger ranges (and speeds for that matter).

The point being, the tech in the volt now, was the same tech we had 10 years ago…. and had we not been lazy about developing it, who knows where it would be today.

YARNLADY's avatar

@westy81585 Lazy has very little to do with it. There was a viable, low production cost electric car developed in Santa Barbara in the 1970’s which could have had us well on the way to oil independence, but the company was bought out by a major auto producer and dismantled.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@westy81585 But the Tesla is a very expensive special-purpose car that is not for the masses; it’s in the Aston Martin class, or at least the Jaguar class. The Aptera is also an amazing, special-purpose machine. But if GM expects to sell the Volt, then I have to assume they feel it’s the best they can do for the mass market, even though to you and me it looks pathetic. I don’t think hybrids would be doing so well these days were it not for the fact that plug-in electrics are just nowhere near ready for prime time. And after all these years, they should be, but GM was having more fun selling bloated SUV pig-mobiles.

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

@Joe_Freeman the Model S Tesla goes for 50k sticker price (easily talk downable). The same technology in it could be implanted into a camry style car, providing all the benefits of electric car, without the stylish “jaguar class” looks.

And you’re right, GM is very largely to blame here for not developing the technology when they could have/should have. But the technology is still far enough along and way better than just swapping to natural gas.

Joe_Freeman's avatar

@westy81585 I will be positively thrilled if the Tesla turns out to be a success. I’m somewhat skeptical because of the dismal flops of Bricklin, DeLorean, and the like, but based on what I just read about Tesla, they might just pull it off, and that would be great.

I look forward to the day when the three U.S. car companies have been replaced by some new ones that believe in innovative design, quality construction, good service, planned non-obsolescence – and building cars in the U.S.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Heres a better question. Why arent we growing hemp for fuel?

bob100's avatar

You would either have to radically change auto engine design or else find an economical way to convert natuarl gas to gasoline.

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