It was good to see Boone Pickens on Larry King Live last night. Even though the show is somewhat fast paced with a lot of interruptions for commercials Mr. Pickens did get in a couple of crucial points. One is that natural gas is really the only alternative fuel for heavy trucks (discounting gasoline). Since, as I have pointed out before, heavy trucks use 16% of the transportation fuels in the US and since no other clean and green plan has addressed this point I feel that he broke some new territory with that observation. How many average Americans really think about all of those big trucks out there when it comes to alternative energy? My guess is very few. Even so, municipal busses running on clean CNG have been used for some time now and the market for them doesn't seem to be slowing down judging from the fact that the metro Washington area just bought 22 more of them
The other point that Mr. Pickens made was that his "Pickens Plan" and Al Gore's "We Campaign" really do have a lot in common. I think that is very important to understand because real change is going to take all of us working together toward common goals and haveng two seperate camps who ignore each other is not the way to go about it.
Another intriguing thing was his response to the host asking whether or not he would accept a Cabinet position from President Obama. Mr. Pickens didn't say yes or no and it kind of seemed like there might have already been some discussion of that possibility at some level. I think that with Boone Pickens in such a post we could actually expect to get started on the change we need...
In other news today it seems that General Motors is doing rather well selling their CNG fueled cars to other countries. Last week I shared a story on Venezuela ordering 44,000 such cars. This week a similar story from India
said that GM India has plans to introduce CNG and LPG fueled vehicles in that country under their brand. So why not in the US? I mean this is General Motors we are talking about not a foreign manufacturer!
Speaking of foreign manufacturers, Toyota is showing a Yaris with gasoline/CNG dual fuel capability
at a Las Vegas car show. OK so that is Honda and Toyota so far exploring the CNG fuel market in the US while US companies will only sell their CNG vehicles abroad.
The most important vehicle technologies at the moment are CNG (including Syngas and Hydrogen) fueled vehicles along with plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Of course plug-ins can be made to run on gaseous fuels so there is a bit of an overlap there but I do see these three technologies being the main ones for the foreseeable future. In the end hydrogen fueled plug-ins will undoubtedly become the car of choice for most Americans with electric only cars being a close second. Electric cars, charged with pollution free renewable electricity are the best from an environmental perspective of course but their limited range makes them best suited to the needs of urban consumers.
With that in mind BMW has announced plans to begin leasing total electric Cooper Mini's
in the near future. The vehicles have a 150 mile range on their batteries (which replace the rear seat of the car) and are being leased for $850 a month in select markets in California, New Jersey and New York. Even so 9,000 people have expressed interest in leasing them so far.
Change is already happening all over the world as new technologies slowly find their way into the marketplace. I really think that this shows the free market will be the driving force in implementing our new energy infrastructure. What people have to realize though is that the "free market" does need to have rules. We have learned to associate the term free market with all of the unregulated boondoggles of the Bush Administration. But the Neocon version of the free market was more like market anarchy (unregulated Globalism, free trade agreements, the credit crisis, etc...). I think we have to get over that and acknowledge that business have responsibilities that go along with their freedoms. Responsibilities to both their employees at all levels and to consumers as well and we have to outline these responsibilities in rules and enforce those rules. After all, American citizens are "free" but with that freedom comes many responsibilities and why should corporations have it any different than the rest of us?