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Unfortunately, when it comes to light trucks and heavy trucks and equipment there is no real electric alternative and it is not likely to happen soon. There are some electric hybrid heavy trucks in development, but they have very narrow use because of the power limitations. There are electric buses in production, but they have limited range; the longest range buses offered now would only make two trips on the RTA route before needing to recharge for several hours.
Furthermore, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support our local economies. Natural gas vehicle fuels does both:
*Initially by converting to natural gas our fleet vehicles will reduce emissions significantly; 30% less CO2 and less than half of other harmful emissions like NOx.
*In the long term renewable sources of natural gas could be developed across the county. Natural gas is methane typically derived from drilling but we could develop methane harvesting in our sewage treatment, from bio-waste, and from forest products. Renewable natural gas for vehicle fuel would make the vehicles using it carbon neutral or even carbon positive because it is putting to use a greenhouse gas that otherwise would be exhausted into the atmosphere. Below are some links to more information including how the City of Grand Junction is using renewable natural gas in their CNG fleet.
Fuel cost savings over the life of the vehicle can offset the cost of the vehicle or conversion to CNG depending on fuel efficiency of the vehicle and miles driven. Heavy vehicles that use a lot of fuel will see the best savings. CNG retail fuel averages about $2.09/ per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE). Fleets that are willing to sign multi-year fuel use contracts have the opportunity to negotiate that price lower and lock it in long-term. With the CNG fuel rate Gunnison County has contracted, our vehicles will pay back the initial upgrade cost in 5 years if gas prices stay at rates they are now and faster if gas prices rise. CNG cost is very stable unlike gasoline, the chart at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/prices.html illustrates fuel costs over the last decade.
Ford, Chevy, and Dodge all offer CNG trucks new as well.
For heavy duty applications Cummins makes several natural gas engines and conversions are available for Isuzu and others. There are many other engine manufactures making natural gas engines and conversions as well.
Natural gas as a vehicle fuel emits between 20-30% less CO2 than diesel.
It also reduces other emissions substantially: Carbon Monoxide (CO) 75% less Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) 50% less Particulate Matter (PM) 95% less Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 55% less
The County’s first round of vehicles should reduce CO2 emissions by 169 tons/ per year, and that is just the start and just the County owned vehicles. In time other fleets will convert and CO2 reductions will increase.
CNG derived from natural gas is a fossil fuel. Most natural gas is pumped from wells that have been developed utilizing fracking but nearly all oil producing wells also produce natural gas. For years the natural gas from oil wells has been allowed to leak into the environment or been flared off. Fracking is controversial and there is good scientific studies that support both its impact and safety. Gunnison County has natural gas wells which produce gas from fracked wells. Gunnison County retains regulatory authority to permit well drilling in the County as well as monitoring wells and regulating discharges to mitigate the impact of wells. It is rare in the U.S. that a community has an opportunity to use a fuel which is produced and regulated locally. It affords us the opportunity to be mindful of the impact our energy use makes and regulate that impact. Oil, whether it is produced in the U.S. or oversees, creates and impact from its extraction to refining into gasoline and diesel fuels. That impact is far away from Gunnison County, and easy to not think about. By utilizing a fuel that is produced locally we are accepting the impact of our fuel use, regulating it, and minimizing it because it affects this place which we all are connected to. Utilizing locally derived fuels to the greatest extent possible is socially responsible and will lead to environmental conservation.
Also we can develop renewable gas sources and move away from fossil fuel use, making natural gas from wells a bridge fuel. This is not fantasy or waiting for technological advances, it is being done now in Grand Junction. Follow these links for more information:
Concerns have been raised by scientists over how much natural gas is escaping wells, leaking from pipelines, and equipment and making its way into the environment because Methane (natural gas) is a very potent greenhouse gas. There is some controversy over how much is actually leaking in the entire supply chain system from the well to the point of use. The EPA estimates 2.4%. There are several environmental organizations that cite leaks to the natural gas system, from wells to point of use, as an offset to any environmental benefits of CNG as a vehicle fuel. Those studies and opinions, however, don’t paint a full picture: First of all they make an assumption that the drilling and pipeline infrastructure are only used for vehicle fueling. The infrastructure is in place now, and it is heavily relied on in our homes and businesses so it will be in place for the foreseeable future; all impact and leaks in the natural gas supply chain cannot be laid upon CNG vehicles. Also, they assume that all vehicles would be CNG from small passenger cars to heavy trucks and they compare the impacts to those of a small electric passenger car. What we advocate is using the right fuel for the right vehicle for the right job. If you are commuting a short distance to work each day an electric car (or bike) is probably the best choice. If you are hauling 60+ people 30 miles each way on a bus and doing laps on a route all day, then electric is not an option and there is nothing even close to being ready for that kind of use, in that case or in the case of your light truck full of tools or a trailer, the most effective fuel for your vehicle environmentally is CNG. It utilizes infrastructure and supply that exists and will exist with or without CNG vehicles. The EPA is tightening restrictions on methane leakage which should reduce leaked gas and reduce the environmental impact of our natural gas supply chain.
CNG tank in a collision: https://youtu.be/NqH_s3YC4sE
Shooting a CNG tank: https://youtu.be/irvktfQvu4M
Dynamite a CNG tank: https://youtu.be/5ZUK-HJOfvU