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CPBJ Extra Blog

Can natural gas find end markets through ride sharing?

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Natural gas probably should join the industrial equivalent of carpooling.

It's no secret that political and bureaucratic allies of natural gas have an interest in promoting end markets for an industry into which they've sunk a lot of financial and political capital.

Pennsylvania keeps coming up with novel subsidies to spur NG vehicle purchases, but at some point people have questions about how much subsidy is too much.

By and large, most private-sector fleets have passed on NG vehicles in favor of hybrid electric or flex-fuel vehicles.

The problem, of course, is the massive fueling infrastructure development that's needed to make natural-gas vehicles work.

So, if you don't have a vehicle of your own, what do you do? Ask a buddy for a ride, of course!

Here's a post from Penn State Extension on natural gas in dual-fuel vehicles such as trains and ships. Basically, these are vehicles that use both diesel and natural gas so companies reduce their fuel costs without compromising power.

Here is a story from the MIT Technology Review about General Electric's work on dual-fuel engines for locomotives. Interesting stuff.

Even in the area of fossil-fuel-driven vehicles, it's looking like hybrid models are the way to go. Along those lines, take a look at this graph from the U.S. Department of Energy:

It's astonishing that auto manufacturers are offering 245 percent more models of hybrid electric and alternative fuel vehicles today as compared to 10 years ago. And it looks like many sold in the U.S. are from the "Big 3" automakers.

I guess that says something for interlacing technology to provide solutions to problems while we look for technologies that won't pollute as much as fossil fuels. Here's a look at which alternative fuel vehicle types are actually in use around the U.S.:

Speaking of pollution from fossil fuels, another story in the MIT Technology Review is going to put a downer on all that optimism I have above. It's great that companies are engaging their partners and consumers in pollution reduction technology for the transportation sector. However, apparently, our technology is not moving fast enough.

And if you want a graph that illustrates tech sluggishness, here's one of the largest problems with many vehicles:

This is starting to make me wish I had gone into the realm of science, technology, engineering and math. Obviously, it's an area with growth potential and innovation opportunity.

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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