The Honda Civic GX, which is just like a regular Civic except it’s powered by natural gas, is a great idea ahead of its time. The United states is sitting, literally and figuratively, on hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of untapped natural gas, with no way of getting at it right now. So as much as any of us would love to make use of this clean-burning, readymade fuel source that works with today’s engine technology, we can’t. At least not without some serious inconveniences, like having to relocate to live near one of the 830 fueling stations spread across the country; or else pay $4,000 for a home filling station—assuming your neighborhood even has natural-gas pipelines, and you can afford to have your car sit idle for nearly half a day as it slowly gases up.
In her post on the forward-thinking Civic GX, which Honda recently announced will go on sale nationwide after only limited availability in previous years, Hannah Elliott pinpoints the crux of the conundrum this car creates:
"The real issue here isn’t about the performance or looks of the car at all, it’s about deciding whether or not natural gas could and should be a viable energy source."
Well, natural gas certainly could be a viable energy source, particularly because cars would have to change very little to run on it. The question of whether it should be an energy source for automobiles is one that I’m glad I don’t have to answer. Because before I started digging into the details of this resource, I naively assumed that indeed it should. But the more one learns about the realities of our country’s natural-gas reserves, the more it becomes apparent how little anyone, even experts, really know about how much of it there is and how to access it. For example, the government has various classifications for the types of natural gas it thinks have been discovered. “Proved reserves” are those that everyone agrees “with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA pegged proved reserves at 284 trillion cubic feet as of the end of 2009, following an increase of 11 percent that year. There are also “undiscovered, unproved and unconventional” natural gas reserves, which the EIA puts at—get this—2,587 trillion cubic feet as of January 2008. This is the stuff that experts think might be beneath the surface, or definitely is but we have no way of accessing it. These numbers might go up in the future, as new reserves are discovered, or new ways of getting at previously unreachable quantities are invented—or they might go down, as we consume more and more of this irreplaceable resource. Who knows? What we do know is that Americans consume an average of 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, according to the EIA. And based on yet another educated guess, this time by the nonprofit Potential Gas Committee, the future supply of the United States’ natural gas reserves stands at 1,898 trillion cubic feet, which means at the current rate of consumption, it will all be gone in 86 years. Now that doesn’t leave much hope for burning natural gas at an even faster rate by using it to power cars like the Honda Civic GX. But perhaps new "undiscovered, unproved and unconventional" reserves will help offset increased consumption in future decades. Again, who knows? More Info: U.S. Energy Administration InformationPotential Gas CommitteeNaturalGas.org