Wednesday, October 7, 2009

While I saw R. Emmett Tyrrell’s Op-Ed column “Freedom from foreign oil” (Opinion, Friday) as “good news” on energy issues, the writer failed to address several important considerations in converting diesel-powered 18-wheelers and other heavy-duty road vehicles to natural-gas power. ( First, conversion costs are in the vicinity of $30,000 to 40,000 per vehicle. Second, natural-gas filling stations are sparsely available in most states.

Certainly, the economy, our fiscal condition and current and future taxpayers should not be asked by a largesse-driven Congress to underwrite the conversion costs for literally millions of 18-wheelers that would be considered for conversion. Perhaps T. Boone Pickens, who has a company involved in developing and building natural-gas filling stations, will pay for the expansion because he will reap the profits.

In 2008, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, we produced and imported 14.73 million barrels of crude oil per day, with worldwide production at 85 million barrels per day. That amounts to a usage of 17.3 percent of world production, not 25 percent.

Diesel is a distillate fuel of which we produced 2.466 million barrels per day through refining over the course of six months, from February through July. But distillate fuel has many uses other than for 18-wheelers and other heavy road vehicles. It is used for diesel-powered autos, locomotives, agricultural equipment (e.g., tractors), space-heating and electrical generation. That reduces to about 1.5 million barrels per day for 18-wheelers and other heavy road vehicles because many 18-wheelers are already running on biodiesel. Because we imported more than 5.95 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2008 from nations in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, we would see a 25 percent rather than 50 percent reduction in imported oil from OPEC if we converted the 1.5 million barrels per day for 18-wheelers to natural-gas power.

That is still a significant reduction in OPEC imports from a conversion to natural-gas power and a large assist in support of the strategic imperative to wean ourselves off OPEC oil.


Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment

Dumfries, Va.

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