The natural gas revolution has brought big changes to the U.S. energy scene. Natural gas prices, which used to move closely together with oil prices, have plunged in the last five years, as the following chart shows. One result has been the rapid displacement of coal by natural gas in electric power generation. According to a recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, some 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electric plants, representing more than a quarter of coal capacity and nearly a tenth of total U.S. electric capacity, have either been closed or are likely soon to be closed because they have become uncompetitive with natural gas. Natural gas has also been displacing oil at a rapid rate as a home heating fuel. In transportation, however, the use of natural gas is spreading more slowly.
Transportation ranks second only to electric power generation in
total energy use. There are at least three ways to use natural gas to
power transportation. One is to generate electricity with natural gas,
which can then power electric cars or electrified rail lines. Another is
to convert natural gas to liquids like methanol or synthetic gasoline.
However, as I discussed in this post
two years ago, the biggest potential lies in the direct use of
compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for
natural gas vehicles (NGVs). >>>Read more