New Partnership to Increase Access to Natural GasPosted by heather on November 6, 2012
By: Steve Gerritson, Vice President, Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County
Although natural gas is widely used as a vehicle fuel in Asia and parts of Europe, natural gas fueled vehicles account for less than 0.1% of the cars and trucks on the road in the United States. Almost all of these are in corporate fleets, such as UPS and Waste Management, which have their own refueling stations.
But that’s about to change. The high price of gasoline, the low price of natural gas, and the continuing push for cleaner vehicles are combining to make natural gas an attractive alternative to gasoline and diesel. Shell Oil Company recently announced a partnership with two companies that operate truck stops throughout the country to install compressed natural gas pumps at their facilities. In the Seattle area, there are several smaller companies promoting and selling some form of natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
Even though it seems logical, there are several barriers that will make this development difficult. Permitting is a major problem, as most local community development departments and fire districts have little to no experience with natural gas refueling stations. And though natural gas is about half the cost of gasoline (for an equivalent amount of driving), retrofitting a vehicle can be very expensive. Finally, market acceptance is, and will remain, an issue for most consumers who are used to the convenience of a refueling station on almost every corner.
entepriseSeattle is teaming with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Western Washington Clean Cities program to bring together a group of stakeholders to look at these and other issues regarding natural gas as a fuel, with the hope of making a set of recommendations for action that will result in greater access to, and acceptance of, one alternative to gasoline and diesel. Contact the EDC for more information.