Floyd Norris of the New York Times discusses natural gas vehicle use in the United States. Thanks to an abundant supply, many fleet operators are converting their vehicles to run on natural gas. However, Norris says there are road blocks that remain before mass use from the general public can be attained, namely a still-developing fueling network and more vehicle options. To jump start popular use of NGVs in the United States, Norris examines the potential of a federal program to subsidize construction along interstate highways. With a fueling network in place, demand for NGVs would follow.
Excerpt: “The fuel is cheap and plentiful. But there is little infrastructure to deliver it to users, and so there is little demand for equipment to use it. That, in brief, is what is wrong with the natural gas vehicle market. And in those facts could be the genesis of an idea for a federal program that would create jobs, save money for consumers and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
If there were natural gas filling stations along the Interstate highway system, the long-haul trucking industry would almost certainly begin to buy natural gas-fueled trucks. But since there are few such trucks now, the first such stations would have few customers when they opened, meaning they would seem like dubious commercial ventures.
Despite that, some stations are being built by the natural gas industry. But the progress is slow, and the oil imports keep coming.
So why not have the government, which can borrow money for almost nothing — about three-quarters of 1 percent for five years — put up money to subsidize such stations? Doing so would provide jobs for construction workers, and thus amount to economic stimulus that could really affect a depressed area of the economy.”