Sustaining America's Future Through Natural Gas

Sustainability, as defined in corporate America, refers to a company’s ability to balance the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations by balancing the environmental, social and economic demands of all stakeholders. The economic setback we’ve experienced in the U.S. has Americans embracing sustainability on a very personal level.

With the advent of hybrid cars, more and more people are rethinking American energy dependence and choosing alternative energy. While we still have a long way to go toward true energy independence, most of our gasoline and diesel vehicles could be replaced by vehicles fueled by domestic natural gas.

We need to find ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and use our own natural resources in order to ensure energy security for our country. Natural gas and natural gas vehicles (NGVs) can play an important role in addressing these challenges.

Pockets of Change in Regional Interstates & Highways

At the end of 2010, there were nearly 1,000 natural gas stations in the U.S., and there are efforts underway to build more. There are five regional corridors where public and private entities are working hard to get stations built near intersections of major interstates and highways:

1) Texas Triangle - Dallas to San Antonio to Houston

2) Colorado Rockies Corridor – Colorado, Wyoming, Utah

3) Southeastern Corridor – Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Virginia

4) Eastern Corridor – Runs north of Virginia into the New England States

5) I-75 Corridor – Runs along I-75 from the northeastern U.S. down toward the southeastern states

In Alabama, our goal is to have as many as 12 public stations by the end of 2012. We’re building natural gas stations primarily for Alagasco’s fleet for now but will be opening stations to the public as well. This means that if all the planned public stations are open for business, you could drive across Alabama from the Tennessee line all the way to the Florida coast in a natural gas vehicle.

Best Candidates for NGVs

Any business with a fleet of vehicles is a good candidate for natural gas vehicles – transit, garbage, laundry supply, and food and beverage trucks are common users of natural gas. For example in Alabama, the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority operates 50 natural gas buses, 13 natural gas trolleys and 30 para-transit vehicles in the Birmingham metro area.

While there’s an upfront cost to either buy or convert to a natural gas fleet, the fuel costs are considerably lower making them affordable over the long run. That’s why AT&T, UPS, Verizon, Waste Management and others are switching to natural gas; they can save millions on fuel costs.

We’re not just talking the talk; we’re walking the walk. Alagasco owns 14 natural gas Honda Civic GX sedans used by our Business Development department.

Benefits of Natural Gas Vehicles

Clean. Natural gas is the cleanest commercially available alternative fuel. For example, replacing just one diesel garbage truck with a natural gas garbage truck can reduce emissions equivalent to removing 325 cars from the road.

Safe. Natural gas is lighter than air and has a higher ignition temperature, stronger components and stronger tanks than other fuels including gasoline and diesel.

Affordable. In the U.S., we are paying more than $3.60 per gallon for gasoline. The price of natural gas ranges from just over $1.00 to around $2.00 per equivalent gallon.

American-made. 85% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is produced in the U.S.

Abundant. The U.S. has more natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia has oil. Currently, 32 of our 50 states produce natural gas, including Alabama, giving our country a 120-year supply.

Reliable. The technology is proven for use in vehicles, and we already have a nationwide natural gas distribution system in place.

Natural Gas and NGVs Good for Economy

Americans spend about $1 billion each day on foreign oil. One billion dollars! While there are numerous benefits to running your car on natural gas, we think keeping your dollars in the U.S. is first among them.

Certainly as we produce NGVs and stations, more jobs will be created, but consider this: the U.S. spent $30 billion on imported oil in one month alone. If we were not burdened by our dependence on foreign oil, think about what we could have done with that money. We could have hired over 443,000 new teachers. We could have funded highway repairs for more than eight years. We could have built 39,500 new elementary schools.

Since the beginning of this the current economic recession, living a more balanced and sustainable life has taken on greater meaning. We think natural gas will play a large role in our overall economic recovery and financial independence.

About the Author

Bob Strickland is an expert on natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and Manager of Natural Gas Transportation at Alagasco, Alabama’s largest distributor of natural gas. With 30 years of business experience, Bob’s career spans from environmental affairs and purchasing to residential, commercial, and industrial natural gas marketing. He’s a board member of NGVAmerica and the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and chairs the Southeastern States NGV Corridor Committee.

He shares his passion for energy independence and the environment with businesses and consumers by promoting the value of NGVs and how they can reduce automotive costs and emissions.

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