Oil magnate T. Boone Pickens  presents his vision of a natural gas transportation economy in the US. DC Velocity interviews Pickens and gets him to elaborate on his ideas. The US imports 4.4 million barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC and about 3 million of these barrels is turned into diesel fuel for trucks.  By replacing this diesel fuel with cheaper North American natural gas (CNG or LNG), Pickens believes the US could reduce its reliance on OPEC crude by 70%. The significant barrier facing the switch to natural gas is building the national refueling and distribution infrastructure that would allow truckers to fill up either with LNG or CNG. The private sector and some US states and Canadian provinces have started to construct refueling infrastructure but Pickens believes governments can take a larger role by providing rebates to individuals and firms to purchase natural gas vehicles (as they do for electric vehicles) or to those who convert existing vehicles to natural gas. Currently less than 0.01% of US vehicles are powered by natural gas.

Truck News informs us that the American Trucking Association will be holding a natural gas transportation summit this fall in Virginia. It will cover all the facts of natural gas use in trucking, including recent fleet experiences, current and future technology from auto and equipment manufacturers, vehicle maintenance and repair shop considerations and the importance of developing a more comprehensive fueling infrastructure. Association president Bill Graves said: “We expect this natural gas summit not just to be attended by a whole host of leading executives from trucking, manufacturing, the energy sector and the government, but we expect it will come to be thought of as an important mile marker on the road to increased natural gas use in trucking.”

Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. is offering rebates to buyers of CNG vehicles reports Tulsa World. The company is giving $2500 to those who purchase a pure CNG vehicle and $2500 to those who install a home CNG fueling station.

Christopher Knittel, a professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says switching to natural gas vehicles would reduce US vulnerability to international oil shocks. At the same time, Americans would save on their transportation fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced. Knittel estimates the social benefits to the US economy (private and external benefits) to range from $4310 for a sedan to $176,648 for a heavy duty truck. To achieve these benefits he makes policy proposals to encourage public and private natural gas infrastructure for vehicles.  You can access the study, “Leveling the Playing Field for Natural Gas Transportation” at Prof. Knittel’s website.

This week General Motors announced it will be ordering natural gas engines for light duty trucks. GM and Vancouver-based Westport Innovations are teaming up to develop two different combustion, controls and emissions approaches for natural gas engines for light vehicles. Earlier this month Westport signed an agreement with Caterpillar to develop engines that use cheaper natural gas to power mining trucks and locomotives.

The Simi Valley Acorn reports Waste Management Industries has added 23 new compressed natural gas waste collection vehicles to its fleet in Ventura County, California.

Seattle, Washington has a CNG taxi company we learn from the Seattle Post Intelligence. CNG for Hire launched last week with 45 Chevy Impalas that run on compressed natural gas. It cost $10,000 to convert each Impala to natural gas. For-hire vehicles are like taxis, but don’t have metered fares and are prohibited in city limits from picking up customers trying to hail a cab on the street. All trips inside the city must be booked ahead by the customer. For-hire companies charge a flat rate or by the hour.

Cities in the US continue to explore moving their city fleets from gasoline and diesel to natural gas. 7% of the city of Asheville, North Carolina’s municipal fleet now runs on CNG reports the Citizen-Times. The city has recently converted 37 of its 600 vehicles to natural gas and has built a CNG station for the public. Meanwhile, Mariatta, West Virginia is exploring converting all of its 98 city vehicles to natural gas says the News and Sentinel. Greensboro, North Carolina added two natural gas vehicles to its fleet this week. LJ World says that the city of Lawrence, Kansas converted one of its Ford F150 pickup trucks to CNG in a trial to help decide if the city should convert more of its 500 vehicles to natural gas.






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