T. Boone or not T. Boone

h/t www.thewindturbines.com/

h/t www.thewindturbines.com/

We have had quite the go lately here at the FDL Borg Hive over the automaker bailout and, more specifically, the most pressing of which is GM. For the moment though, I want to touch on a corollary to the future of the American auto industry, and that is the transition to clean and green that needs to occur for long term sustainability of Deetroit wheels.

If we could flip the switch on a perpetual motion device, heck even the Chevy Volt, tomorrow, that would be wonderful. But we cannot. The path back to health and profit prosperity for American auto will be a process that takes time, and it is going to take intermediate steps while the new technology comes on line, gets refined and evolves into maturity.

The guy, for better or worse, that has been out front making noise about the transition from oil to clean and green is none other than the infamous, and legendary, Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens. Transition is the key word regarding the Pickens Plan as it relates to our topic de jour, automobiles. Because the Volt is not scheduled for release until 2010, and even assuming GM and its Volt makes it that far (which is no given), it will take a while for plug in technology to become deeply rooted. And, of course, a massive shift all at once to electric autos would crash our strapped and deteriorating power grid.

Pickens’ main point on internal combustion transition is that natural gas should be a, it not the, transition fuel for cars, and, more significantly, fleet vehicles.

Pickens’ Plan proposes that the natural gas that is currently used to fuel power plants could be used instead as a fuel for thousands of vehicles. Ken Medlock says that the US will continue to use natural gas for electric power generation. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, making it an increasingly popular fuel for power plants. Gas plants also produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

The technology needed for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles such as City buses, fork lifts and passenger cars with CNG drivetrains is available now. Honda sells the Civic GX, with a 170-mile range. In addition, it is possible to convert vehicles to run on CNG in addition to leaving the conventional fuel injection intact, allowing the driver to switch back and forth at will. Kits are available for the do-it-yourselfer. One can buy a CNG compressor called Phill that hooks up to the city natural gas line making it possible to refuel a CNG car at home.

There are a lot of issues to be taken with T. Boone Pickens however, there is some merit to the compressed natural gas (CNG) idea as an interim fuel to power the transition to the clean and green engine/power modalities of the future. Especially for municipal and other fleet vehicles; however, the Honda Civic GX and conversion kits are viable ideas for daily driving by individuals as well.

Now, as to whether T. Boone or not T. Boone, well that is a much more difficult proposition. It is pretty hard to listen to the Boonester preach about all this after being one of the leading right wing asshole oil men of all time. Very hard. Is he genuine? Probably not entirely, no; he stands to profit from the build out, production and sale of facilities and the product, and, make no mistake, at some point there is a domestic and global natural gas peak limit just like that of oil.

As a short term, interim part of the transition, however, there are some real merits to consideration of CNG, especially on fleets. And as to T. Boone, well I am not buying in very far to his schticht, but his relentless hawking of his plan on TV, radio, and every other forum he can get his mug in front of has some incredible side benefits of getting the public inured to alt fuels and new ways of thinking on energy. That is a very good thing. We don’t want to throw in with the man and his plan, but the publicity for wind and solar, and alt fuels is priceless.

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42 replies
  1. BooRadley says:

    And as to T. Boone, well I am not buying in very far to his schticht, but his relentless hawking of his plan on TV, radio, and every other forum he can get his mug in front of has some incredible side benefits of getting the public inured to alt fuels and new ways of thinking on energy. That is a very good thing. We don’t want to throw in with the man and his plan, but the publicity for wind and solar, and alt fuels is priceless.

    BULLSEYE!!!!!!

    Throw the Boone out with keep the bathwater.

  2. BooRadley says:

    T. Boone has traction with all the fundies, neocons, and filthy rich who know for damn sure that we are DFH’s.

  3. CasualObserver says:

    Is he genuine? Probably not entirely, no; he stands to profit from the build out, production and sale of facilities and the product, and, make no mistake, at some point there is a domestic and global natural gas peak limit just like that of oil.

    I have no problem with him making a profit, and, as he is proposing CNG as a bridge fuel, and not the final destination of where we should be, I have no problem with him boosting CNG per se. If I heard him right on MTP, he sees electricity as a stable destination.

    Also, Pickens is boosting his ideas in plain sight–in the public forum. Can’t say the same for Henry Paulson, who has conflict of interest issues up to his beady eyeballs, and refuses to tell us or congress where the hell the money went.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah, I agree. I don’t want to throw all in with the guy, but I am not going to shun him because of the past etc. His voice is helping get the word out, just ask Al Gore. And as to CNG, a lot of the buses here where I live are CNG powered, and your can literally tell the difference. There is some usable stuff out of Pickens.

    • PJEvans says:

      He’s set up to make money off the refueling stations. He’s also not telling the whole truth: a lot of power plants run on natural gas already, at least in the west, where coal is less common (and generally lower quality). It might also be a good idea to ask why he’s been buying up water rights in places like West Texas; he certainly hasn’t been talking about that.

      As far as the initiative he got onto the CA ballot: the company I work for took no position on it:

      the Company is uncertain how Proposition 10 will enhance renewables, and because the Company believes there are better ways to promote alternative fuel vehicles than increasing State debt by another $5 billion.

      • CasualObserver says:

        I’m not saying the man’s a saint. I got no use for his politics. But he’s got some valid points and you don’t throw those out just because you don’t like the man.

        • bmaz says:

          Exactly.

          And dead on the money about the battery technology necessity too. Strangely enough, this is a prime reason to keep GM afloat, production by GM of the Volt will drive development of new and better battery tech like wind on a wildfire.

  4. BooRadley says:

    No expert, but I’ll throw in my $0.02. IIRC, T. Boone wants the taxpayers to pay for the new HVDC transmission lines (million dollars a mile) to port his wind power to where it’s needed. Boone owns the turbines. I think it’s probably in the taxpayer’s interest to pay for some of the transmission cost, otherwise the project won’t get done as fast. I don’t know enough about the details to know what’s fair.

    WRT cng, iirc, a lot of it is hard to get to, and Boone wants our help to drill for it.

  5. jdmckay says:

    The larger picture is much more challenging, but much more exciting and potentially rewarding as well.

    Just to put it in context, that given energy woes/constraints the whole planet faces (US in particular given far higher per/capita consumption), debate through election reduced to little more than drill-baby-drill, yet peak oil entirely absent from discussion. 50/60/70 yrs of fossil fuels, maybe a few more if Exxon can melt the polar ice caps, but then what?

    Is that the best we got?

    That wall street has utterly failed in delivering any forward looking solutions, much less maximizing them… there is an incredible opportunity here, and much larger than what Pickens proposes.

    Quick wish list:
    * modular, high efficiency grid… something that has replaceable parts: eg. “plug in” access/dispersal hardware as technology improves, same w/adding & expanding networks. All technolgy we have knowledge base to design and built. Build materials which don’t leave

    * current accumulated knowledge in physics, materials science, engineering, geology… just so much knowledge currently relegated to University library shelves ’cause Wall Street can’t get a quick enough return implementing some of this stuff. Particle fountains, space based solar collectors, highly effecient energy beams… there’s huge body of know-how for all kinds of stuff like this today. A lot of it is doable now, some needs a bit more tweaking… It all needs to be part of planning.

    What if Los Alamos was doing this instead of bunker busters?

    * Pickens points in right direction. But his scope, eg. required but as yet un-proposed supporting infrastructure, none of this is in public debate beyond very cursory overviews. Whole lot of naysayers saying it can’t be done. It can.

    If it were up to me, I’d go around country (world?), get the best and brightest in all these disciplines. I’d get ‘em a mountain top like Los Alamos was for Manhattan project, give ‘em whater they need and tell ‘em the world needs this stuff tomorrow!!! It’s an emergency.

    I’d shoot any Wall Street investor that gets near the place, and I’d let the collective voice of these guys call the shots.

    I like Picken’s ideas. He’s been pretty likeable and folksy lately, but I can’t help remembering this is the guy who spent $$ millions financing Swift Boat Vets. So ok, give Pickens a voice. Then I’d make him step back into the chorus & let the pros have equal voice… let the cream rise to the top.

    And then when they “said it”, I’d just do it. No congressional vote, no vetting by Billy Kristol, no IPO on Wall Street. Just do it.

    In my perfect world, Obama would throw out notions of “The era of big government is over”, and start: “The era of Good Government is just beginning”.

    Unfortunately, right now, it appears he’s stuck somewhere between those 2 right now.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah. About right. Kind of my point; we don’t control Pickens having a voice, he has one on his own. Free speech and lots of money. Fine, I’ll be happy to take the publicity and actual good point he makes, thank him for it, and move along. It is, to my eye, a net plus, and a surprising one at that, so far. If he is helping us, and he is i think, his oiliness and swift boat BS can stay under the bridge. The future, and a clean one, is too important.

  6. BooRadley says:

    More brainstorming:

    1. Battery technology, both for cars and mega storage.
    2. Geographical approach. Southwestern US seems primed for solar. IMHO Mississippi River holds vast potential for power generation through water turbines. Ocean coast lines have the potential for significant wind power and harnessing the energy from tidal currents.

    • bmaz says:

      Yep. And JDM @7 is right about the grid. We need a new, hi-tech modular grid with tons more capacity than we have now. And it needs to readily accept individual power production as well as drawn usage. Where can easily both use power and supply power back into the grid. This is a key no matter what we do.

      • Sara says:

        “Yep. And JDM @7 is right about the grid. We need a new, hi-tech modular grid with tons more capacity than we have now. And it needs to readily accept individual power production as well as drawn usage. Where can easily both use power and supply power back into the grid. This is a key no matter what we do.”

        At least one part of a new type of long transmission lines exists, and has been installed for testing for five years. It is a product 3M developed to replace copper lines, a ceramic and carbon fiber product with metals incorporated in the ceramic. It carries 3 times the power of copper lines, though with current production technology and volume, costs about three times copper. 3M has it installed on the long lines coming out of the Nuclear plant at Princeton Minnesota, and has 5 years experience with it.

        Among its features, it does not heat up and expand due to resistance or summer’s heat. You can probably use the existing towers to string it, thus reducing the need for new power line right of way. (fewer political fights). Pay back economics are excellent, as the new type line does not lose power over long transmission distances.

        Doesn’t solve all problems, but properly planned it makes a significant contribution.

    • CasualObserver says:

      Battery technology is one place where tons of money is to be made. It’s the bottleneck for so many things. And agree on the need for distributed power generation as well, and need for grid to be able to handle 2-way power traffic. Power utilities, some of them anyway, have fought this tooth and nail.

  7. PJEvans says:

    What I’m saying is count your fingers when you deal with Pickens, and don’t assume that what he’s selling now is his ultimate goal.

    As far as getting the national labs involved: I remember reading, twenty years ago, energy-storage studies coming out of LLNL (flywheels, elastomers (think rubber-band systems), better batteries). I’m sure Los Alamos is also involved in this. If they’re not involved now, it’s probably because various political administrations weren’t much interested in these ideas.

    • jdmckay says:

      Back to the Future: for those not familiar, retro tech auto from mid ’30s: Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion.

      Quick overview:

      * carried 10 passengers + driver
      * wet weight under 1000 lbs.
      * 90 hp motor
      * 120 miles/hr top speed. (later models +/- 138)
      * 30-50 mpg (your mileage will vary depending… {t’heehee}).
      * U-Turn w/in radius of it’s own length.

      NOTE: Dymaxion was not capable of time travell!!!

      Fun QT video here.

      • bmaz says:

        Heh. Excellent! I actually had the opportunity to discuss the Dymaxion with Bucky Fuller. Fairly detailed discussion of lateral stability of the thing. Just one of simply a ton of brilliant ideas the guy had. Talking to him is one of the fonder memories of my late teens/early 20s.

        • randiego says:

          Heh. Excellent! I actually had the opportunity to discuss the Dymaxion with Bucky Fuller. Fairly detailed discussion of lateral stability of the thing. Just one of simply a ton of brilliant ideas the guy had. Talking to him is one of the fonder memories of my late teens/early 20s.

          pretty cool… man you have some great stories.

        • DWBartoo says:

          Great post, bmaz!

          And you is one verra fortunate person, having had the chance of speaking with Fuller.

          I hadn’t realized that you did automotive restoration work.

          Someday, bmaz, you shall have to regale us with those tales, once again, for those of us who missed them first time through.

          A friend of mine used to do Bugatti and Rolls Phantom restorations .

          Did a couple of MG’s me ownself, back in the day, TC’s, TD’s and MGA’s …

            • DWBartoo says:

              Damn!

              bmaz!

              Phil Hill was a true gentleman. You have met some truly amazing folks, bmaz.

              And pictured in the nostril-nosed Ferrari no less.

              And a beautiful Ghost.

              Thank you, bmaz, much appreciated.

              DW

            • CasualObserver says:

              OK, your criticism of the VT1 just gained substantially in cred.

              Doesn’t mean I agree with it…

              • bmaz says:

                You know, maybe as a concept it had some value. I dunno. I have a hard time getting to that point, because a production vehicle is a car first and foremost. To me, driving and evaluating the thing, as a car, it was a total pile of mushy worthless junk. The Volt is what the EV-1 needed to be before going into production. I mean, seriously, when the damn thing is so lame that it is only usable in the southwest because the batteries that weren’t worth squat here, basically didn’t work at all in colder climes. Well, anyway, enough of that; water under the bridge. Now the Volt, that is truly exciting; it should be everything the EV-1 was not.

        • jdmckay says:

          I actually had the opportunity to discuss the Dymaxion with Bucky Fuller. Fairly detailed discussion of lateral stability of the thing.

          Pretty cool b, nice story. Between Goldwater & Bucky, seems you have stories to tell.

          Saw your other post/links on working in Santa Monica/Rolls Royce at all… pretty cool, not to many opportunities like that.

          Early this year when my work (tech) started tumbling in ABQ, I did full restoration of ‘86 SAAB 900T: always wanted one, did it as hobby… turned out great. Tech only slowed more, so I’ve made the SAABs a biz: just finishing 4th one. AQB/Sante Fe a real pocket of appreciation for those things: can buy old ones all over for +/- 1k, and in sw dry air they’re all rust free. Eeach one sold before I’m done now, having a lot of fun.

          Oh yea, almost forgot… one of my best friend’s dad was like #5 or so in Bechtel management when we graduated HS (’73): he landed us 2 3-month gigs pouring concrete on Alaska pipeline making insane unskilled $$ at age 18… worked out to about $9500 p/mo.

          Anyway, I mention it just to let y’all know that experience made me an ENERGY EXPERT so ‘ya better listen up!!!

          Talking to him is one of the fonder memories of my late teens/early 20s.

          Right there w/you!!!

          I graduated from UC Santa Cruz, attended 2 of his lectures there: both started @ 8pm, ended about sun up… rock concert atmosphere both. All about domes though, no Dymaxion. Also got to hob-nob w/him a few times in Werner Erhard’s org. Fascinating, fascinating time.

          His book: SYNERGETICS II one of most useful screeds I ever read… nothing quite like it. His definition of principle has been fundamental-life-101 to me for years.

          He’s one of my fav Americans… a real treasure.

  8. CasualObserver says:

    Noriega ran a good race though. Made Cornyn nervous, at least. I believe Texas will be in play for Dems. in 2012, especially if Obama is able to make any progress at all.

    Meanwhile, I share your pain.

  9. randiego says:

    TBP owns all the LNG refueling stations. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but definitely a good reason to take a closer look at what he is selling.

    Here’s a DKOS diary on the water thing… he’s gonna make money promoting urban spawl in the DFW area. Not exactly a “green” initiative.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/…..508/580217

    Agree that TBP’s ads on green power are a good thing. The message from him will carry weight with people who would not be open to a pitch from The Sierra Club, or any other enviros…

    • bmaz says:

      I think he has backed off of the water pumping deal now; that is kind of done. Agree about his ulterior motives, but man you can really tell a difference on the CNG busses here; serious difference. Not everything, or everybody is perfect; right now, I think he is of definite net plus to the effort, so I’ll take it.

      As to the stories, heh, they all emanate out of the same deal. The summers I used to spend in Santa Monica restoring antique and classic cars as I described in a couple of posts. It was through Hill that I was able to meet Fuller. I just kind of Forest Gumped into the situations unwittingly. I had no idea who Fuller was when I started talking to him; he was just another guy at a Sunday brunch get together. I said to Phil’s wife something to the effect of “Hey that old dude’s pretty cool” and she proceeded to tell me who he was and about the geodesic dome and the Dymaxion and a couple of other things. I thereafter hogged every minute i could get with the guy asking him questions both that occasion and the other one that he was around.

  10. CasualObserver says:

    It’s getting bad out there.

    Brazil trader shoots self on stock trading floor
    Brazil trader shoots himself on stock exchange trading floor
    Monday November 17, 2008, 4:02 pm EST
    Yahoo! Buzz Print SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — A stock exchange trader has shot himself on the trading floor in Brazil.

    Sao Paulo’s Bovespa stock exchange says the 36-year-old man shot himself in the chest a couple of hours before markets closed in South America’s biggest city.

    The Bovespa statement says Paulo Sergio Silva was taken to a hospital, but his condition was not immediately available.

    It was not clear if he shot himself due to the recent sharp losses in Brazilian stocks or for other reasons.

    Trading was halted for a few minutes after the shot was fired on Monday.

  11. Leen says:

    Had the good fortune to spend a bit of time with Bucky in Aspen Colorado during the summer of 76 or was it 77? Was living in Aspen when J Denver bought the sizeable chunk of land outside of Snowmass. Was part of a group of folks who volunteered to help put up the biodome with lots and lots of direction.

    We sat at Bucky’s feet and listened to every word every whisper. After reading the alleged teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and others about less is more Bucky’s beliefs, lectures and actions fell right in line with those teachings.

    What a brilliant mind what an incredible human being filled with soul

    http://www.whitney.org/www/buc…../about.jsp

  12. jdmckay says:

    We sat at Bucky’s feet and listened to every word every whisper. After reading the alleged teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and others about less is more Bucky’s beliefs, lectures and actions fell right in line with those teachings.

    ROFL!!! In particular, I recall in those days Fuller’s gatherings were only place you’d see hippies, clergy and white-shirt-&-suits all in the same room having a great time.

    and from your link I like the wording:

    much of his work developed from his inquiry into “how nature builds.”

    … don’t recall every seeing it put that way, but elegantly stated.

    Nice to see they’re still doing those kind’a events, haven’t seen/been to one in long while.

    • Leen says:

      interesting combination of folks involved in looking into alternatives those days…Rachel Carson, Bucky Fuller, the Lovins all pioneers in thinking, pushing the envelope and walking the talk

  13. bmaz says:

    Cool stories JDM and Leen. The dude really got around. That line “how nature builds” sounds about right. I cannot remember the specifics, crikey it has been about 30+ years now, but that seems consistent with my memory of how he was describing the geodesic dome somehow. “Nature’s building blocks”? Something like that, just can’t remember….

    • Leen says:

      I was always hoping that when one has the good fortune to be in the presence of geniuses like Bucky or others that one might absorb some of their intellect, brilliant understanding and foresight through osmosis. I read several of Bucky’s books but had to read them at least twice.

      I agree that we need to take what Pickens and others are willing to do NOW and move forward. But so difficult to think of the lives that would have been saved in the years that we have used our military to protect access to resources if only we had followed the lead of folks like Bucky, Carter years ago… lives would have been saved.

      Better late than never

    • pdaly says:

      nice post, bmaz and comments everyone.

      I guess I came along too late to meet the guy in person, but I know where to go to see him now.
      He’s buried in Cambridge, MA (he did get around!) at the Mount Auburn Cemetery.

      I’ll make a special trip this weekend to introduce myself and send him your well wishes.
      I assume he is buried under a geodesic dome?

  14. DWBartoo says:

    Leen you are a very lucky person, indeed.

    And both you and bmaz had the wisdom to appreciate such ‘good fortune’.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Fuller’s notions of synergy must be expanded upon, ‘comprehensively’, it is to be hoped.

    I alwasys appreciated the far-ranging aspects of his thinking, his unwillingness to pretend that things were in separate, distant and distinct, ditches with no relation to other ditches …

  15. gryphon says:

    The problem with T. Boone Pickens is he is a crook. A smart crook (that’s the dangerous kind). He can see the end of the gravy train, and would liek to take this opportunity to get the government to foot the majority of the bill for his new gravy train (e.g. the power transmission lines), while keeping the ability to bill us for the power. There is no reason why the wind power generators should not be wholely/partly owned government monopolies. Power production/transmission is just too important to be placed in teh hands of private enterprise … just ask Grandma Milly.

  16. spoonful says:

    The more windmills the better. It doesn’t matter if they’re owned by T Boone, the govt. or Bruno Sanmartino. Not sure about LNG in my car though.

    • pdaly says:

      Does compressed natural gas stay compressed after a car crash?
      Not sure I like the idea of that kind of stuff on the road either.

      Corn crops as an alternate source of fuel sounded great until I heard that our aquifers in the midwest would dry up watering the corn crops. Without water, we have about 7 days to live.

      Hope there is success with battery technology.

  17. gmoke says:

    Pickens made it clear on The Daily Show that he is talking about natural gas for trucks and maybe fleet vehicles. That may be a good idea. Methane management is extremely important but I don’t think Pickens is thinking of it that way. He also does not address the fact that natural gas in combined cycle power plants have much higher efficiencies than in any vehicle.

    A lower energy alternative to freight transport is rail and water. Flex fuel vehicles are also a good idea.

  18. pdaly says:

    Dymaxion was a term Buckminster Fuller applied to cars and apparently houses and bathrooms, too.

    Dymaxion Bathrooms are to be equipped with “Fog Gun” hot water vapor showers that use only a cup of water to clean hygienically without soap. Remarking that “Nature had designed humans to separate urine and excrement. Both are valuable chemistry, and should be collected for further use,” Bucky specified a waterless “Packaging Toilet” that deftly shrink-wrapped the stuff for pickup for later composting. (Ordinary toilets use approximately 2000 gallons of pure drinking water per year to flush – and waste – one human’s “exhaust” that, if dried out, would scarcely fill two 5-gallon pails.)

    See Buckminster Fuller Institute

    Not sure if this could be applied to car design…or to modern gardening (although it is done in developing countries and the human waste is responsible for spreading hepatitis A among other intestinal infections to the unfortunate diners who ingest the harvested raw food).

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