Can Natural Gas Save the Economy?
Efficient Living with Natural Gas Space Heaters, Grills & Vehicles
Natural gas provides many benefits for American consumers. Not only does it decrease our alarming dependence on imported oil from foreign countries but it also could save households about 50% on utility bills. According to the American Gas Association (AGA) the U.S. natural gas resources can meet current demand levels for at least 100 years.
In this article, we'll explain how you can use natural gas and what the advantages and disadvantages are. First, here's some background information on natural gas.
What Is Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that was once the remains of plants, animals and other microorganisms that existed millions of years ago. This material began to decay and started to form in layers and over time it became covered under sand which turned to stone. With the combination of heat and pressure this organic material then changed to coal, oil, and natural gas.
What Is In Natural Gas?
Natural gas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen sulfide. It can also include ethane, propane, butane and pentane. However, the natural gas that is delivered to your home is almost pure methane.
How We Use Natural Gas
There are many different applications that have been found for natural gas. It has proven to be a very good energy source, an alternative fuel for vehicles, it can efficiently heat spaces and it's great for cooking.
It's alarming how dependent America is on foreign oil. The U.S. imports about 8.4 million barrels of foreign oil a day! That number has actually dropped from 11 million just a few years ago because the country has started to take steps to reduce our dependence on other countries.
One of those steps is using natural gas as a vehicle fuel. This is because about 98% of the natural gas that is used was produced in the U.S. as opposed to oil of which 47% is imported according to NGVAmerica, an organization dedicated to the development of a market for natural gas vehicles.
Currently, there are about 250,000 natural gas vehicles, or NGVs, in the U.S. and 1,000 NGV fueling stations. These numbers are growing. From 2003 to 2009 the number of vehicles that used natural gas nearly doubled.
There are many benefits to using natural gas for a vehicle fuel:
- It's clean. NGVs exhaust emissions are much lower than gasoline or diesel. It meets very strict emission standards including California's AT-PZEV standard.
- It's inexpensive. A gallon of natural gas costs about $2 less than a gallon of gasoline. So if you have a 15 gallon tank that you fill up every week for a year that's about $1,500 you would save on fuel costs annually.
- It's abundant. As mentioned earlier the U.S. has a large supply of natural gas that is readily available and isn't imported from other countries.
Right now the only NGV available in the U.S. market is the Honda Civic GX. It has been named one of the greenest vehicles by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). There are conversion kits available for existing gasoline-powered vehicles but they can be expensive ranging from $1000-$4000.
Another limitation to NGVs is there is a fuel shortage. Yes, there is plenty of natural gas available but the U.S. just doesn't have the infrastructure set up yet for delivery and distribution.
Natural gas can also be used to provide heat to your home. It can be used for providing warmth to a room or outdoor patio as a space heater or a fireplace. It can also be used to heat your water. There are even natural gas clothes dryers available.
A natural gas space heater is designed to heat a room much faster than an electric model. This is a type of heating called convection that works by creating heat with a blower that distributes warm air throughout a space. There are models that work great for small rooms or there are units available that can handle large spaces like garages and warehouses.
There are also many fireplaces available now that run on natural gas. These provide many advantages over traditional fireplaces. They're more convenient because you don't have to stock wood and it eliminates the need to cleanup ash and soot. They're also about 80% more efficient, save you the cost of wood, and they add value to your home.
Another application of natural gas is to heat water. There are several models of natural gas hot water heaters available and the benefits are numerous. They heat water quickly so there is a faster recovery time which also means you can use a smaller tank and save space. There are even tankless hot water heaters available for even more space savings. They also include all the other benefits that you've learned to find with natural gas including: efficiency, low cost and environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, as with vehicles, natural gas isn't readily available to all homes. It is supplied to homes through a system of pipelines so people that live in more rural areas won't have access as opposed to homes that are in more urban areas.
Natural gas also makes a great fuel source for cooking. Some chefs actually prefer it because it provides even heat, allows for more temperature control and it's capable of being instantly turned on or off. There's a wide variety of stove ranges and barbeque grill models available to meet whatever the need. Even if you're not a professional chef there are now units available specifically for home cooking.
Gas ranges cost about half as much as cooking with electricity so they are much more economical. The initial purchase may cost more but in the long run the savings on your utility bill will make up for this.
Interesting to Know
- Over $450 billion was spent last year by the U.S. on importing oil
- 2,800,000 jobs were directly or indirectly created or induced by the natural gas industry
- The U.S. supply of natural gas has as much energy potential as Saudi Arabia's oil supply
- NGVs reduce emissions up to 95% over gasoline or diesel vehicles
- In 2011 NGVs offset the use of about 360 million gallons of gasoline
- Transit buses are the largest users of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid natural gas (LNG) with nearly 1/5 running on natural gas
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