We talk about this stuff all the time, namely the obvious economic disconnect between paying nearly $4 per gallon for gasoline bought from OPEC countries and the promise of natural gas as a transportation fuel costing half that amount and coming from under our feet.
It’s an obvious solution, running vehicles on compressed natural gas, and the economics of it indicate it’s bound to happen eventually. The problem is how. Until you’ve got the infrastructure – namely, fueling stations in enough places to make it worthwhile for people to either buy a vehicle running on CNG or convert their current ride to it – you won’t get the consumer demand that will drive the changeover.
These guys have a solution. Is it the right one? We’re mulling it over.
Certainly the Post Office has enough commercial real estate to provide CNG infrastructure if they were to follow this idea. And certainly converting those postal trucks to CNG makes all the sense in the world. But the track record of getting the government involved in this stuff is a bit dicey. The last thing we want is to entice the federal government down the road of being the prime retailer of fuel. And people who own gas stations can tell you that what they really make money on isn’t the gas but rather all the soft drinks and Funyons and donuts they sell in the convenience store attached to that fuel pump.
So this might not be the right way to approach the issue. It may be that a simple change in the tax code would be enough to change the economic picture in favor of CNG as a transportation fuel. But clearly something should be done – when oil experts are predicting a 60-cent jump in gasoline prices by May, which will choke off whatever economic recovery is going on at present, at the same time Chesapeake Energy and others are cutting back on natural gas production because the price is too low to make economic sense, you’ve got too good an opportunity for transformative, beneficial, structural change in the U.S. economy.