A letter from Obama
This is going to be a very long post. About 2 months ago I had written an open letter to President Obama. Here is his response. Right below it I explain why I think that LNG as a fuel is not just a blimp or a bridge technology as some like to call it. Its an energy earthquake and it will ring in a new paradigm shift. But first the president.
Thank you for writing. I appreciate hearing from you, and I share the vision of millions of Americans who want to take control of our Nation’s energy future. My Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is about developing every source of American energy—a strategy aimed at saving families and businesses money at the pump by reducing our reliance on foreign oil, expanding oil and gas production, and positioning the United States as the global leader in clean energy.
While developing new sources of energy is critical to our future, the hard truth is there are no overnight solutions to our energy challenges. The only way to deal with this problem is through a sustained, serious, all-of-the-above approach. Under my Administration, American oil production is at its highest level in 8 years, and we are now less reliant on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. We have more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined, and we have opened up millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration where appropriate and where it can be done safely. My Administration has also approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil around, including from Canada, which will help create jobs and encourage more energy production. Thanks to our Nation’s booming oil production, more efficient vehicles, and a world-class refining sector that last year was a net exporter for the first time in 60 years, we cut net imports by 10 percent—or a million barrels a day—in the last year alone.
My Administration will continue to look for every way we can help consumers—from relieving distribution bottlenecks to ensuring speculators do not take advantage of volatility in the oil markets. To decrease our dependence on foreign oil, we established the toughest new efficiency standards for cars and trucks in history. These fuel economy standards will double the fuel efficiency of our cars and light trucks by the middle of the next decade, which means filling up your car every two weeks instead of every week.
But as a country that has 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves but consumes 20 percent of the world’s oil, we cannot just drill our way to lower gas prices. The United States leads the world in natural gas production, with reserves that can last nearly 100 years—a supply that can power our cars, homes, and factories in a cleaner and cheaper way, and one that experts believe will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. However, we must utilize this reserve without putting the health and safety of Americans at risk. That is why, for the first time ever, I am requiring all companies drilling for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use.
Thanks in part to my Administration’s investments in clean energy—the largest in American history—the United States has nearly doubled renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources, and thousands of Americans now have jobs as a result. By cooperating with the private sector, we have positioned our country to be the world’s leading manufacturer of the high-tech batteries that will power the next generation of American cars. I have repeatedly called on Congress to stop giving away $4 billion a year in oil subsidies to an industry that has never been more profitable, and instead to pass clean energy tax credits to cultivate a market for innovation in clean energy technology. And I have directed the Department of the Interior to allow the development of enough clean energy on public lands to power three million homes. The United States military—the largest energy consumer in the world—is also doing its part, making one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history.
Securing our Nation’s energy future is one of the major challenges of our time, and will require the efforts of our brightest scientists and most creative companies. Americans must summon the spirit of optimism and the willingness to tackle tough problems that led previous generations to meet the challenges of their times. My Administration is making a serious, sustained commitment to tackling these problems, and I encourage you to learn more about our efforts at www.WhiteHouse.gov/energy. (please be aware that with the Trump administration, the content of the White House website has been changed and hence this page is not available anymore.)
Thank you, again, for writing.
Here is my reply:
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for replying to my open letter. I appreciate the effort.
I have gone through my original letter and must confess that one very important aspect was rarely ever touched at all. Natural gas and its liquid embodiment LNG are so clean and have such outstanding environmental credentials, that one might be forgiven to not even mention it. But that’s a mistake and I certainly stepped into this trap.
Let me make up for it right now.
I agree that there are no overnight solutions to energy problems. Those challenges require longterm planning and effects can only be observed many years after first action has been taken. One might be forgiven to think that shale gas is a reality for a very few years but we should not forget that the seed for what happens now was laid a decade ago.
As already said in my first letter, I am a big fan of the great American economist and writer Julian Lincoln Simon. Let me restate his core message.The overarching thesis on why there is no resource crisis is that as a particular resource becomes more scarce, its price rises; this rise of price creates an incentive for people to discover more of the resource, ration and recycle it and, eventually, develop substitutes. The “ultimate resource” is not any particular physical object but the capacity for humans to invent and adapt. — (taken from the Wikipedia entry on Julian Lincoln Simons book “The Ultimate Resource II”)
The existence of shale gas is known for centuries. Until just a couple of years ago, it was assumed that it could not be economically exploited. Rising energy prices provided the incentive for the entrepreneurial among us to try their luck. What more need I say? This spirit has propelled America once more to the climax of technological and economic development.
This was of course not the only consequence of the pressures on the energy market. Energy efficiency is another big issue and so are many others. I simply want to demonstrate that human imagination, human enterprising spirit cannot be boxed in or directed. But as you say it should be controlled as every freedom also opens the door to abuse.
I think we all agree that forcing companies to be transparent about their use of chemicals for fracking is a good thing. We should know what happens to our environment.
But while talking about the environment, I also care about putting things into perspective. The OECD estimated in a 2012 report that in 2010 an estimated 1,4 million persons have prematurely died from the negative effects of Particulate Matter. This is a careful estimate and the real number is probably much higher. The British NHS also estimated that those who die prematurely, do so on average 17 years early. Particulate Matter (fine dust and soot) is a byproduct of coal combustion and yes, also of burning light and middle distillates like gasoline and diesel among other sources and it’s probably today one of the nastiest components of exhaust fumes. Our cars, trucks, and buses give us the pollution that also kills us.
Natural Gas combustion does not produce significant amounts of Particulate Matter. It’s a strange coincidence but the rise of shale gas has squeezed coal out of the United States which in turn leads to a very noticeable reduction not only in Particulate Matter emissions but to emissions reductions across the board including CO2. Shale gas hence lowers emissions and makes our lives better. Fracking certainly has its risks but without being an upstream engineer myself, I am sure they can be controlled. And I am sure that compared to the benefits of lower emissions, we are better off this way than with coal.
Let me turn to LNG now as this is my real objective. The shale gas revolution is the core driver behind an even more significant change. LNG, the liquid form of Natural Gas, enables us for the first time to convert our vehicles to this ultra-clean fuel across the board. Heavy-duty vehicles were in the past excluded from Natural Gas fuelling as CNG tanks would be very, very heavy and the range those vehicles would then have is pitiful.
LNG is energy dense enough to end that problem. It behaves like diesel in many ways. Only about 1,6 times the volume of LNG will get you as far as diesel does. And the tank is just slightly bigger due to the vacuum insulation. It’s not a huge re-engineering challenge.
As with everything new, a virulent Anti LNG movement has sprung up and it aims to show how lethal LNG is supposed to be. The general population perceives LNG as something very dangerous, something that cannot be controlled in any way. In reality, LNG is a very benign substance. Its only real issue is its very low temperature and that can very reliably be controlled.
But let’s compare LNG to some other substances that we use every day. We fill our cars with gasoline for example. It’s a very dangerous, explosive and cancerous substance – yet we pull over at the fuelling station with no fear or funny feelings. There is just a no smoking sign and you should not use your mobile phone while there. Gasoline is an infinitely more dangerous substance than LNG is and many people die or get seriously injured every year because of mishandling it.
LNG appears to people to be something new (which by the way is not really true as we LNG aficionados know) and you know how it goes. If its new, its automatically to be handled with special care. If the safety standards applied today to handling LNG would also be applied to gasoline or diesel or some other stuff we use to deal with, nobody could use it anymore without very special protection. You would probably have to wear something akin to space suits and you would be required to have special training with frequent updating. There would be very rigorous checks and controls at fuelling stations but nothing of that really happens because gasoline appears to have been around since the dawn of time.
Mr. President, American entrepreneurs do not need subsidies or other governmental help. All they need is some fair treatment and someone who likes them in DC. Likes the for what they are doing as LNG moves us a good deal closer to Emerald city. LNG as a fuel rings in the rise of a new energy age. It began during your term and this might, with hindsight, maybe be remembered as one of the most important achievements of your presidency.
LNG happens right here, right now. It will not only help America but also the rest of the planet. We all suffer from high energy prices and pollution. We have been told that in a future world, we would live in a pollution free environment as some yet poorly developed or even undeveloped new technology will save the day.
We all long for this day to come but in the meantime, we should just use what we have right now. Replacing dirty coal with much cleaner shale gas was a good thing. The next step must be to also replace dirty distillate fuels with Natural Gas. LNG will help this development.
As a little boy, I wanted to live in a perfect world. With age, I have come to accept that the world will always be less than as perfect as I could imagine depending on how one likes to look at perfection. I, and I am sure that I speak for billions here, would gladly settle for a world that’s just a little better than the one I see now.
Thank you for your commitment to improve our lives and to ensure a sustainable future. And thank you again for responding.
This is very interesting. Thank you for sharing, Rudolf.
You are welcome.