The push for compressed natural gas vehicles has gained some major traction with commitments from Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and General Motors, but energy industry experts say federal incentives will be needed if real transformation is to occur.
“It is extremely nice to see that it’s actually here. A lot of times you talk about those things like they’re unicorns,” said Gifford Briggs, vice president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. “But now they’re here …. I think that is a huge first step towards making it (CNG) a little more mainstream acceptable.”
The energy industry has felt good about the direction CNG has taken for a while, Briggs said, but the advent of mass-produced pickups that can run on natural gas or gasoline opens the door on a national scale.
Louisiana has seen CNG advances because of its Haynesville Shale natural gas formation, LOGA, the energy industry, and companies like Chesapeake Energy Corp., Encana Corp., Petrohawk Energy Corp. and Apache Corp., Briggs said. But trying to get Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and other states that don’t have the energy infrastructure to support CNG has been more challenging.
That may be changing. Twenty-two states are part of an effort, led by the governors of Oklahoma and Colorado, to encourage automakers to make more affordable CNG vehicles for state fleets. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said the governors hope their efforts will help overcome some of the obstacles automakers face in producing a wider variety of CNG vehicles.
Oklahoma Energy Secretary Michael Ming said if the participating states could buy 5,000 CNG vehicles that would be great, but 1,000 is more likely given the current economic climate.
State government buys only about 40 percent of the public-sector vehicle purchases, Ming said. Municipalities and other political subdivisions account for 60 percent of sales.
If the municipalities — city and parish governments — tag along, the CNG sales could be significantly higher, Ming said.
Chris Knittel, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described the states’ request as “interesting.”
The states presume the CNG vehicles available aren’t that affordable, Knittel said.
“There’s no magic wand that the automakers can wave that makes the CNG vehicles less expensive than gasoline-based vehicles,” Knittel said.
“But there are things that policymakers can do to level the playing field.”
States have to put policies in place with incentives that encourage consumers to switch, he said. Those incentives could involve making CNG fueling stations available, subsidizing vehicles or in-home fueling stations, or by lowering retail prices for natural gas.
Right now, the states aren’t guaranteeing anything to automakers, Knittel said.
“I think the states are just saying that if you build them, we’ll promise the consumers,” Knittel said. “I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case given the current structure of prices and the number of refueling stations around.”
There are roughly 1,000 fueling stations nationwide, and 123,000 CNG vehicles, Ming said.
In Louisiana, CNG vehicles make up less than 1 percent of the cars and trucks on the road, Briggs said. Nationwide, CNG vehicles are around 2 percent of the total.
But that can change if the state, local and federal governments and the private sector — the companies that operate fleets — work together, he said.
“I don’t think the federal government or the state government or the local government can do it by themselves, any more than I think the fleets can do it by themselves,” Briggs said.
But working together can make things happen, Briggs said. Just look at Lafayette, where the city-parish government and private sector have joined to make the state’s most aggressive move to CNG.
In July, Apache opened a public fueling station. The company also converted 15 of its vehicles in Lafayette, part of 300 conversions it will complete by yearend. The city-parish has converted five buses and announced plans to convert its entire fleet.
The city-parish is also trying to form a partnership with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the local school boards to convert all their vehicles, Briggs said. Acadian Ambulance is experimenting with CNG for its vehicles.
The East Baton Rouge City-Parish Government recently began looking into converting all of its vehicles to CNG. The city-parish expects the move will slash fuel costs, particularly for heavy-duty pickups and other vehicles that consume more fuel.
Chesapeake spokeswoman Katie McCullin said there is evidence across Louisiana that the state is leading the nation in natural gas usage.
For example, Shreveport has added 14 natural-gas powered buses, and Bossier City has added a second public fueling station. Holmes Honda in Shreveport and Bossier City received its first shipment of the Honda Civic Natural Gas, the only dedicated CNG vehicle now sold in the United States.
In total there are 10 public CNG stations in Louisiana, with more in the planning stages or under construction, McCullin said.
Chesapeake, a major player in the Haynesville Shale and other natural gas plays, is one of the leading proponents of CNG.
The Oklahoma-based company’s Fueling the Future Initiative is an effort to communicate how natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and end the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, McCullin said.
The company has a billboard off Interstate 10 near the state Capitol extolling the use of natural gas vehicles.
Chesapeake has participated and sponsored natural gas vehicle seminars nationwide and is converting its 5,000-vehicle fleet to CNG, McCullin said. UPS, Verizon Wireless, Waste Management, Disneyland Resorts and AT&T are also converting their fleets to CNG; in 2009, AT&T announced it would spend $350 million to buy 8,000 CNG vehicles.
McCullin said Chesapeake will also invest at least $1 billion over the next 10 years with Clean Energy, 3M Corp., GE and Sundrop Fuels in efforts to increase demand for CNG vehicles.
The work with 3M could revolutionize the design and manufacture of CNG tanks, the most expensive part of the CNG fueling system, McCullins said. The redesign is expected to lead to lighter, more durable and less expensive tanks.
Chesapeake expects these investments to be the tipping point that gives automakers the confidence to increase their production of CNG and liquefied natural gas vehicles, McCullin said.
Still, both Briggs and Knittel said federal incentives are needed if natural gas is to replace oil as a transportation fuel.
The federal government would be the best source for those incentives, Knittel said, because the benefits from CNG vehicles accrue to the nation, not just to the states.
Energy independence and a reduction in climate change help everyone in the United States, regardless of whether a Louisiana resident buys CNG vehicle, he said.
“When the benefits accrue to everyone, the best place to set the policies is at the higher federal level,” Knittel said.
Briggs said if the country wants to see “a monumental shift,” then Congress should pass the Natural Gas Act.
The act replaces CNG incentives that dropped off the books about three years ago, Briggs said.
That was about the same time that Louisiana passed its own CNG vehicle incentives, Briggs said.
Right now, with only the state incentives, a Louisiana consumer can recover the $10,000 it costs to convert to CNG in two years if he drives 15,000 to 20,000 miles a year.
Most people don’t drive that much, Briggs said. But if both federal and Louisiana incentives were in place, converting a vehicle would be free, and consumers would begin saving money instantly.
“You’re saving a dollar, a dollar fifty, two dollars a gallon,” Briggs said.
“That would register with the American public overnight.”
Briggs pays around 45 cents per gallon by fueling up at LOGA’s office station, he said.
At Apache’s Lafayette station, the cost is around $1.79 a gallon, which is still only about half the price of gasoline.
Briggs said there is enormous support for the Natural Gas Act, but he doesn’t expect Congress to pass the legislation anytime soon.
And Knittel said any new policies that involve handing out more money have little chance in Congress these days.
“Still, I could certainly see both sides of the aisle supporting CNG,” Knittel said.
The rhetoric from both parties suggests they would support natural gas vehicles, he said.
Meanwhile, the price of natural gas is lower than it’s ever been, and with shale gas so plentiful, prices are expected to remain low for some time, Knittel said. In the past, natural gas prices have been very volatile; the price might fall but no one expected it to stay there.
Now, natural gas is expected to remain at less than $5 per thousand cubic feet for the foreseeable future, Knittel said.
Briggs said the United States is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.
“We have more natural gas than we know what to do with. We’re trying to export it,” Briggs said.
The country has so much natural gas that it’s going to run out of storage capacity, Briggs said.
“I think if the federal government … is serious about eliminating our dependency on foreign oil, the only viable alternative is natural gas,” Briggs said.
Congress should pass the Natural Gas Act, he said.
“Let’s get it on the books, and let’s see if we can get started transforming America’s transportation infrastructure” Briggs said.
Source: The Advocate
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WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.
“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption. By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today. It’ll strengthen our nation’s energy security, it’s good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”
The historic standards issued today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) build on the success of the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks for Model Years 2011-2016. Those standards, which raised average fuel efficiency by 2016 to the equivalent of 35.5 mpg, are already saving families money at the pump.
Achieving the new fuel efficiency standards will encourage innovation and investment in advanced technologies that increase our economic competitiveness and support high-quality domestic jobs in the auto industry. The final standards were developed by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA following extensive engagement with automakers, the United Auto Workers, consumer groups, environmental and energy experts, states, and the public. Last year, 13 major automakers, which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States, announced their support for the new standards. By aligning Federal and state requirements and providing manufacturers with long-term regulatory certainty and compliance flexibility, the standards encourage investments in clean, innovative technologies that will benefit families, promote U.S. leadership in the automotive sector, and curb pollution.
“Simply put, this groundbreaking program will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide more efficiency for consumers than ever before—all while protecting the air we breathe and giving automakers the regulatory certainty to build the cars of the future here in America,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today, automakers are seeing their more fuel-efficient vehicles climb in sales, while families already saving money under the Administration’s first fuel economy efforts will save even more in the future, making this announcement a victory for everyone.”
“The fuel efficiency standards the administration finalized today are another example of how we protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Innovation and economic growth are already reinvigorating the auto industry and the thousands of businesses that supply automakers as they create and produce the efficient vehicles of tomorrow. Clean, efficient vehicles are also cutting pollution and saving drivers money at the pump.”
The Administration’s combined efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. Together, they will save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For families purchasing a model Year 2025 vehicle, the net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. Additionally, these programs will dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign oil, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil and reducing oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC each day.
The standards also represent historic progress to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change. Combined, the Administration’s standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program – more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.
President Obama announced the proposed standard in July 2011, joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, as well as the United Auto Workers. The State of California and other key stakeholders also supported the announcement and were integral in developing this national program.
In achieving these new standards, EPA and NHTSA expect automakers’ to use a range of efficient and advanced technologies to transform the vehicle fleet. The standards issued today provide for a mid-term evaluation to allow the agencies to review their effectiveness and make any needed adjustments.
Major auto manufacturers are already developing advanced technologies that can significantly reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions beyond the existing model year 2012-2016 standards. In addition, a wide range of technologies are currently available for automakers to meet the new standards, including advanced gasoline engines and transmissions, vehicle weight reduction, lower tire rolling resistance, improvements in aerodynamics, diesel engines, more efficient accessories, and improvements in air conditioning systems. The program also includes targeted incentives to encourage early adoption and introduction into the marketplace of advanced technologies to dramatically improve vehicle performance, including:
Incentives for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cells vehicles;
Incentives for hybrid technologies for large pickups and for other technologies that achieve high fuel economy levels on large pickups;
Incentives for natural gas vehicles;
Credits for technologies with potential to achieve real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel economy improvements that are not captured by the standards test procedures.
California is the top clean energy state in the United States for the third consecutive year, and the American West region continues to lead the national clean tech economy, according to a new ranking from industry analysts Clean Edge.
The 2012 State Clean Energy Index, the third-annual such analysis, aggregates various industry data into one scoring system. Overall scores are awarded on a 100-point scale based on three categories – installed technology (clean electricity, clean transportation, energy intelligence & green building), policy outlook (regulations & mandates, incentives), and invested capital (financial, human & intellectual).
#1 — California
California dominated the rankings with a 91.1 score, more than 10 points higher than the second-ranked state, even though it lost 4.2 points from 2011. The Golden State “has established itself as the world’s preeminent testing ground for clean technology of all kinds,” and led the country in nearly all aspects of market expansion, including new wind and solar, hybrid and electric vehicles (EV), and green building.
However, the state’s most notable achievement comes in attracting venture capital. California-based clean energy startups saw $9 billion in investment over the past three years, more than the combined total of all 49 other states.
#2 — Oregon
Oregon held onto its second-place rank, gaining 0.5 points for a 79.9 score. Clean Edge credits the state’s success to consumer-driven demand for clean tech products and services, the highest national participation rates for voluntary green pricing programs, the largest concentration of LEED-certified buildings, and one of the highest rates of hybrid-electric vehicles per-capita.
#3 — Massachusetts
Massachusetts jumped 4.3 points to retain its third-place rank with a score of 76.1. Clean Edge attributes the state’s strength to an existing base of energy efficiency measures, a $500-million infusion of venture capital investment in 2011, and the Boston metro region’s network of universities. The index considers this concentration of education and startups second only to Silicon Valley.
#4 — Washington State
Washington State, buoyed by a 9-point increase, jumped from sixth overall in 2010 to the fourth-ranked state in 2011 with a score of 69.0. This ranking was due to newly added wind capacity and strong hydropower output, which helped to generate more than 84 percent of all in-state electricity from low-carbon sources (up from 72 percent in 2010). In addition, the state’s focus on building out an EV charging network could make it an industry epicenter moving forward.
#5 — Colorado
Rounding out the top five was Colorado, which maintained the fifth-overall rank from 2010 with a five-point score increase to 65.1. Clean tech infrastructure continues to grow in the state, especially in green building, wind power, and solar photovoltaics. Interestingly, Colorado also checks in as the third most attractive destination for venture capital investment, thanks largely to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Clean Edge also noted four impressive national trends:
- Six states now generate more than 10 percent of their utility-scale electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal – twice as many as 2010.
- Nearly two million hybrid cars are now registered in the U.S., and nearly 50,000 all-electric vehicles now ride our roads.
- The 29 states with renewable portfolio standards (along with Washington, D.C.) now represent nearly two-thirds of the total national generating capacity.
- Clean energy patents granted to U.S. entities exceeded the 1,000 mark for the first time in history.
Remainder of top ten
The index also highlights interesting factors that helped determine the rank of the rest of the top-ten states:
- New York State (64.9) ranked sixth, generating more GDP dollars per kilowatt-hours consumed as a result of extensive energy efficiency measures, and the upstate region is a growing hotbed of clean energy R&D.
- Illinois (59.8) ranked seventh, reflecting rural areas of the state’s focus on agriculture and biofuels development as well as Chicago’s leadership in green building and energy efficiency.
- New Mexico (58.1) ranked eighth, due largely to the state’s growing importance to the solar industry and importance as a key market for PV deployment and technology development.
- Vermont (56.5) ranked ninth on the strength of an environmentally minded population, high percentage of hybrid-EV deployment, and energy efficiency measures.
- Minnesota (54.6) ranked tenth as a notable national leader in wind energy and biofuels. The state was one of only five in 2011 to generate 10 percent of its power needs from wind, and is among the highest national ethanol producers.
Even though national support for clean energy technology may be uncertain, state-level support remains strong and the green economy continues to grow. “The state-level scene shows a diversity that crosses political boundaries and regions,” said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge managing director. “The next decade will determine which nations, states, and cites lead in clean tech.”
These days, unless you’re an ardent fan of hybrid or electric cars, it can be pretty hard to tell them apart from their gasoline equivalents.
For the average motorist it isn’t an issue, but for first responders attending the scene of an accident, it’s important to know what a crashed car is powered by.
Which is why the state of Massachusetts is becoming the second state in the U.S. (after Hawaii) to fit electric and hybrid cars with special license plates designed to warn recuse crews that they’re dealing with an electric or hybrid car.
The new license plates were introduced after the National Fire Protection Association recommended them as an additional precautionary measure to protect emergency workers.
It is hoped that Massachusetts’ approach will be easier to implement in the field, since first responders will only have to look for one of two different license plate designs.
It’s likely that some advocates will argue that the new plates only further alienate the public from hybrid and electric cars.
After all, gasoline cars are far more likely to burst into flames in an accident than a hybrid or electric car, both of which have sophisticated interconnection systems designed to make the car’s high-voltage battery pack safe in a crash.
But with high-voltage cabling often hidden behind panels and under floors, safety workers need to ensure the car’s battery pack is safe before using cutting machinery to rescue occupants.
By offering a visual prompt, Massachusetts hopes both car victims and rescuers remain safe at all times.
Massachusetts has already produced 17,600 of the specialized plates, which are available at Registry of Motor Vehicles offices statewide.
For new car owners, the plates will cost the same as any other regular plate, although owners of existing electric or hybrid cars can swap their plates free of charge for the official electric/hybrid plate.