Iraq Crisis Should Spur U.S. To Use Domestic Natural Gas As Transportation Fuel While the US is producing more oil, we still import a lot. The mess in Iraq is likely to cause oil price increases. We can protect against them by using more of our own energy, this way cutting imports

WASHINGTON – Before the current crisis caused by the ISIL conquest of the North, oil analysts predicted that Iraq’s crude production, already quite substantial, (about 3.4 million barrels a day), was destined to grow significantly, (up to 7 or 8 million barrels a day).

Projections about future oil prices included increased exports from Iraq

Which is to say that future projections about global demand and supply and therefore world crude prices were based on the assumption that a significant Iraqi production increase (and exports) would help meet new demand (mostly from Asia) and therefore contribute to future oil price stability.

Iraq in chaos

None of this applies anymore. Iraq is in chaos. A government trying to fight a mighty Sunni insurrection will not even be in a position to keep its current production of about 3.4 million barrels per day, let alone increase it. And this means that, assuming increased global demand, we can expect oil prices to go up.

Given the relative fragility of most Western economies, including the United States, this is bad news. But there is something that America can do, thanks to it own vast reserves of shale gas.

America can protect itself, thanks to natural gas

Indeed, America can diminish its dependence on oil by aggressively promoting the use of liquefied or compressed natural gas, (LNG and CNG), as transportation fuel. It would make sense to start with heavy trucks, because they consume a lot of fuel (mostly diesel) and are on the road most of the time.

Imagine this. Assuming that the entire fleet of about 9 million US heavy trucks would run on LNG today, this would amount to about 3 million barrels of oil a day that we would not need to import anymore. That’s a lot of oil.

This would not solve all our problems, but it would lessen the economic impact of any future oil price spikes, something that we can expect, given the current turmoil in Iraq, Syria and (farther away) in chaotic Libya.

LNG and CNG are cheaper than diesel

Switching over to LNG and CNG makes sense anyway. Chaos in Iraq simply makes this change more urgent. We have plenty of natural gas, right here in America. Natural gas is much cheaper than oil-derived diesel. Therefore it makes economic sense for large fleet operators to switch over to natural gas. Many of the infrastructure impediments, most notably a lack of refueling stations across America, have been partially overcome. And the picture keeps improving with more stations being built. Finally, Cummings Westport now produces an efficient natural gas fueled engine (called ISX12 G) ideally suited for heavy trucks.

A signal from Washington?

In other words, most of the critical pieces essential for a successful switch from diesel-fueled heavy trucks to a new generation of LNG-powered heavy vehicles are now in place. Of course, it would not hurt if the markets would get a signal from the top. For instance, it would boost confidence if the Federal Government would announce that from now on Uncle Sam, in order to support US energy security, will buy only natural gas fueled heavy trucks that run on US produced LNG or CNG.

Environmentalists are against all fossil fuels

But, sadly, this will not happen. Anything that may appear like a Washington endorsement of any fossil fuels would immediately become politically controversial, with left-wing environmentalists protesting loudly.

Wasting time

And so, for fear of offending people who apparently do not care about the heavy price of imported energy, we waste precious time, while we should be doing our utmost to further diminish our dependence on imported oil.

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