November 29, 2012 4:00 PM, EST

Energy Executive T. Boone Pickens Touts Promise of Natural Gas

John Sommers II for Transport Topics
ARLINGTON, Va. — Oil and gas industry legend T. Boone Pickens said here Thursday that it would be in the best interests of the trucking industry to embrace natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Pickens, speaking at American Trucking Associations’ Summit on Natural Gas in Trucking, said the global energy market would continue to determine prices of both oil and gas, but that U.S. production has been and will continue to increase.

The Marcellus shale field in Pennsylvania, New York state and West Virginia “will be producing [fuel] 100 years from now,” Pickens said.

Speaking to reporters after his talk, Pickens said that the United States “is the only country in the world without an energy plan.”

Asked about trucking’s adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles, he likened today’s situation to that of Henry Ford mass-producing the automobile without worrying about a fueling infrastructure.

“The trucking industry realizes natural gas will always be cheaper than diesel,” he said.

Pickens spoke on a panel with Clean Energy Fuels Corp. CEO Andrew Littlefair. Clean Energy last year received $150 million to build “America’s Natural Gas Highway,” which will eventually be 150 natural gas filing stations. Pickens is Clean Energy’s largest shareholder.

Littlefair said market acceptance for over-the-road trucking could be about five years away, based on the experience of the refuse removal industry. In that industry, he said, natural-gas vehicles first came into general use in 2008 and now have taken more than half of the market for new trucks by this year. Similar inroads have been made by natural gas-powered transit buses, he said.

The important factor, he said, was a swift payback for the investment in natural gas equipment.

“That will have to happen for truckers, too, Littlefair said.” “These [trucking companies] are smart operators. They have to get payback.”