by Randy Lieber

Growing up, I learned early to go with the best I had until something else better came along. It has served me well and I suggest here that it would also serve our country today.

PERFORMANCE in regards to CNG is not a problem. CNG is approximately 130 octane. Racing fuels are about approximately 110 octane. The octane in regular gasoline that most of our vehicles run on is 85. In fact, the world land speed record was set by “Blue Flame”, a natural gas vehicle on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 28, 1970. The Blue Flame’s record of 630.478 mph, lasted for 13 years.

CNG is a LOW COST FUEL or it should be. In Utah, as of 07/14/08, CNG is $.85 a gallon statewide; yes, that’s .85 cents! In many other states CNG is as high as $3.75 a gallon. Utah, Oklahoma and a couple of other states regulate their natural gas. If Utah were not regulated, we also would be paying about $.50 a gallon less than gasoline, which has been where the petroleum companies and profiteers have pegged CNG’s price in many other states. In the past 20 years a few petroleum companies, like Clean Energy, have gone around the country and bought up many of the natural gas suppliers and distributors, in effect, destroying any competition.

The federal government currently allows a $.50 per gallon excise tax credit to all states dispensing CNG for vehicles. From the pricing differences, it’s easy to recognize which states are passing that money on to the consumer ( as is the case with Questar and Oklahoma Natural Gas ) and which distributors are gouging the consumer. Also note that under the 2005 congressional energy bill which provided these incentives, the .50 cent tax credit is offset by the same 18 cent tax excise tax which is paid at the pump for gasoline and diesel (until then CNG, LNG, LPG and other alternative fuels were not subject to paying this “road tax”). So the net effect is approximately .32 cents per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE). This credit is also available to non-taxpaying entities such as local governments and school districts, etc. So we have the interesting situation where many of these entities that are using alternative fuels now are filing for the credit with the IRS, where previously they had no dealings with the IRS whatsoever.

The price of regular gasoline is approximately $4.00 a gallon. The price for CNG is $.85 a gallon in Utah. So the ratio is approximately 5 to 1. So, in terms of the money paid, gasoline costs 5 times more than natural gas, which means that a Ford Crown Victoria that averages 25 mpg gets the financial equivalent of 5 x 25 or 125 mpg on average or in other words, it’s like paying the normal price for gasoline, but getting 125 miles per gallon. Now, that’s my kind of GREEN$$

REDUCE OUR DEPENDENCE on FOREIGN OIL NOW. Many politicians talk about reducing dependence but what are they doing about it TODAY? It’s a no-brainer! CNG is a domestic fuel. While in 2005, the U.S. imported over 75 percent of the oil it used, 99 percent of the natural gas used in the U.S. is produced in North America (85 percent from the U.S. and 14 percent from Canada). Every gallon equivalent of natural gas used in vehicles is one less gallon of petroleum that has to be imported. All diesel engines can be adapted to a dual fuel system. Diesel engines will run easily on a mixture as low as 20% diesel and 80% CNG according to a Questar executive.

LOWER MAINTENANCE Not only is CNG cheaper but also when used in vehicles, the engines last 2 to 3 times longer and the oil only needs to be changed every 10,000 miles, unlike gasoline engines that require oil be changed every 3,000 miles. Mechanics with Questar (Utah’s natural gas distributor) say that vehicles that use CNG still look new, at 200,000 miles. There are CNG taxis and limos that have logged over 1 million miles. They don’t experience the build up of hydrocarbons that petroleum vehicles do. That’s because carbon is like sand in an engine increasing wear and shortening its life. Dedicated CNG vehicles are designed to run only on natural gas but there are also bi-fuel vehicles. They make the best of both worlds and have two separate fueling systems.

Fuel System: Natural gas vehicles (NGV’s) have all the same standard safety equipment as conventional cars (seat belts, air bags, etc.), yet they are subjected to the same crash safety tests as well.

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