JOHN HOFMEISTER: Will electric, natural-gas or hydrogen vehicles make significant inroads in the car market in the next 10 years? The simple answer: No. President Obama pledged that there would be at least 1, 000, 000 battery, plug-in electric, and hybrid-electric cars on the road by 2015. T. Boone Pickens promoted the “Pickens Plan” to displace imported oil with domestic natural gas to eliminate the transfer of wealth of $700 billion dollars for foreign oil per year. Neither proposal seems on track today to achieve what was proposed. We have instead over 250 million internal combustion engine vehicles with nearly all of them running on oil products. Gasoline powered vehicles are using a 10% blend of ethanol. Biodiesel is slowly becoming available for retail purchase. Flex fuel vehicles, approaching 15% of the fleet over the past decade, rarely fill up with an 85% blend of ethanol. There are just over 3, 000 E-85 fueling stations in the U.S. out of a total of over 150, 000 gas stations, or just 2%.
Things change slowly on America’s highways. The staying power of the status quo is far greater than most people imagine. The president’s proposal covered eight years. The “Pickens Plan” was estimated to take longer. Ten years in automotive or energy time is short time.
But we shouldn’t be discouraged. Groups like Fuel Freedom Foundation and U.S. Energy Security Council are working full time to ramp up the use of alternative fuels and to eliminate costly imported oil from our mobility supply chain. Working directly with EPA, DOT, DOE, the White House and Congress, meeting with auto makers and oil companies, volunteers and paid staff are committed to game-changing efforts to make domestic natural gas converted to ethanol and methanol, CNG (compressed natural gas), LNG (liquefied natural gas) and GTL (gas to liquids) legal fuels. Both organizations are agnostic as to whether mobility is powered by electricity, including batteries and fuel cells, domestic oil, natural gas, or biofuels. The goals of each group are similar: fuels should be more affordable, available, cleaner, legal, safe and serve the American market to eliminate dependence on foreign oil from outside North America. I’m personally proud to be a part of these efforts.
John Hofmeister (@cfaenergy) is former president of Shell Oil Co. and founder and head of Citizens for Affordable Energy. He is also a member of the U.S. Energy Security Council.