Will natural gas power our vehicles?

Date posted: November 12, 2012

One of the game changers in the energy world has been the gigantic increase in natural gas production. Much of it here in our country. This raises the interesting question of whether eventually we could substitute natural gas for oil based gasoline as a fuel for our cars and trucks. Is this a far-fetched proposition? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“And before I get to that question …, first of all, the benefits of doing that would be twofold. It would reduce our reliance on foreign suppliers of fuel, and secondly natural gas is less of a pollutant than petroleum-based gasoline.

“One of the questions here in answering your question is what form the natural gas fuel would take. It would have to be changed in some way. It would have to be compressed or would have to be liquefied in order for it to be safely used and transported.

“The second issue is the infrastructure. We would need a new infrastructure of fueling stations in essence selling natural gas fuel. And we don’t have that yet. And so we really have … right here a chicken-and-egg problem. But we don’t have a lot of natural gas powered vehicles — I mean, you and I wouldn’t go out and buy one probably today because there aren’t a lot of fueling stations.

“They’re very limited across the country. But secondly there aren’t a lot of fueling stations because there aren’t enough natural gas-powered vehicles. So you have to ask, Well, which has to come first? Now one idea that supporters of natural gas have said is that we need to have some major big tax subsidies to buyers of vehicles for the purchase of natural gas-powered vehicles. That might start the ball rolling. This is something I think we will see a lot of action on over the next couple of years.”

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