We know that Ohio has a considerable problem utilizing its natural gas resources due to its legislators' lack of vision. But did you know that natural gas well drillers and operators have a lack of vision as well? As the Marcellus shale fields were developed, there were no regulations forcing drillers to provide for "Wellhead Freeze-Off Protection (WFOP)." Ohio is in a relatively mild climate, and that WFOP is generally not needed if your needs are not mission-critical.
Unfortunately, the "War on Coal" shut down many of our very resilient coal-fired power plants and caused Ohio to rely heavily on natural gas from fracked shale plays. Natural gas is becoming more and more mission-critical in Ohio winters. Fracked shale plays are much more likely to experience wellhead freeze-offs because the process injects lots of water into the ground. The moisture left in the ground then tends to freeze at the wellhead during extreme cold weather events. This freezing can cause a restriction in the flow of gas out of the wellhead or a complete stoppage. During our last Polar Vortex in 2014, there was a 35% curtailment of natural gas due to wellhead freeze-offs. We did not experience outages of electricity and natural gas to our homes because we still had coal-fired power plants, and we had our nuclear power plants. Since the 2014 polar vortex, we have had 25 coal generation units go offline. If we were to experience another Polar Vortex similar to 2014, Ohioans would freeze to death.
How did this happen?
FERC's artificial markets through PJM (Ohio's Regional Transmission Organization) only provide an incentive for a low price and do not incentivize resiliency. Artificial markets created by the government rarely consider those metrics that were deemed crucial within naturally developed markets. There are excellent reasons not to throw all our eggs into one basket like natural gas. So, energy producers made sure we had both coal and nuclear power, which are very resilient energy forms.
It was in their best interest before 2005 to ensure that no one lost power, as they were accountable to Ohio's Public Utility Commission. If an energy producer is not concerned with resiliency, they can make more profit. Due to Nuclear Power plants and Coal Power plants being so expensive to build due to regulations, natural gas electric generators can make a lot of profit with investments into cheap natural gas plants. This reality, however, puts Ohioans at risk due to no WFOP regulations.
So how do we capitalize on our natural gas reserves?
My solution: First, we need to require that all-natural gas wells built above a certain latitude in our country are protected from extreme cold weather events. This means a requirement of installing wellhead freeze-off protection. This will make natural gas much more resilient.
Second, we need to deliver a tremendous volume of natural gas during an extreme cold weather event. This means greatly enhancing our natural gas pipeline infrastructure. We need more natural gas pipelines.
Thirdly, regional and micro CHP (Combined Heat and Power) systems can make the grid more robust and efficient. CHP uses a power source in a very efficient way – suitable for residential or small businesses. The EIEO (energy input vs. energy output) is 4:1. Most small-scale electricity systems produce under 40% efficiency, but CHP can reach 80-90% efficiency allowing resources to last twice as long.
Lastly, there is a synergy between transportation and natural gas. We travel in our cars more during warmer months, and natural gas is at less risk of not being delivered during the warmer months. Investing in the expansion of CNG fueling stations through low-interest loans and tax incentives would help to jumpstart the increased purchase of CNG vehicles on U.S. roads and waterways. There are some 12,000 CNG fueling stations worldwide, yet the U.S. only claims about 500 public stations. New technologies and greater demand would ideally mean that the number of new stations is climbing rapidly.
The federal government could provide incentives to States to replace their fleets through attrition with CNG-based vehicles. Even though CNG equates in price to about half of what gasoline costs, natural gas producers make much more money on transportation fuel than the natural gas sold to produce electricity. This will help raise the profit margins on natural gas and foster intelligent growth and development of our natural gas resources.
I will author legislation that will eliminate the emission control requirements on CNG vehicles. This will make them more affordable and attractive against cheaper gas and diesel vehicles. CNG vehicles do not need these emission controls to meet emission standards.
- CNG burns cleaner compared to gasoline and diesel.
- Carbon monoxide emissions are reduced by 80% or more, and hydrocarbons are reduced by 44%. This significantly reduces greenhouse gases, and these numbers will get better with technology.
- CNG does not pose any hazard to groundwater since the fuel is non-toxic.
- CNG vehicles run quieter than conventional fuel engines resulting in less noise pollution.
- Natural gas is pure and contains fewer particulates that allow the engines to run much longer than convention engines using less clean fuel.
A CNG vehicle is much more affordable over its lifetime than an electric vehicle and most likely will always be more affordable than an electric car. A battery-powered vehicle needs to have its batteries replaced every eight years. For consumers, that means a $6,000 to $10,000 expense in year 8 for an already expensive car. While CNG vehicles are estimated to average about $2,200 higher in initial cost than regular cars, they will have fewer engine problems over the vehicle's life. The engine will last much longer: 30 years than the typical 20 years for a gasoline vehicle. Add to this that CNG vehicles only take slightly more time to fill than gasoline engines, and you don't have to wait for 30 minutes to 2 hours for your electric car to fill-up at a supercharger. This means less planning and more convenience for long trips. With fewer emissions, our desire for larger and safer vehicles like trucks and SUVs in today's world is more attractive because they have less impact on our environment.
My legislation will offer States issuing bonds that back low-interest loans to establish state government CNG filling stations. These stations must be accessible to the public, providing that they are privatized over 30 years.
My legislation will remove CAFÉ standards for CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), LNG (liquefied Natural Gas), and DME (Di-Methyl Ether) vehicles. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA's) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards regulate how far our vehicles must travel on a gallon of fuel. NHTSA sets CAFE standards for passenger cars and light trucks (collectively, light-duty vehicles), and separately sets fuel consumption standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks and engines. This will provide more of an incentive for auto-manufacturers to produce CNG vehicles in mass quantities.