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Utah Becoming Hot Spot for Natural Gas Cars

26 August 2007

Deseret Morning News. A combination of tax incentives and low fuel prices is making Utah an emerging hot spot for natural gas vehicles.

“We have the cheapest gas in the nation,” said Gordon Larsen, Questar Gas’ supervisor of natural gas vehicles. “The demand here is really, really high,” he said. “Fleets have been running on it for some time, but the general public is really taking it up right now.”

With natural gas costing the equivalent of 73.6 cents per gallon, a car that gets 25 miles per gallon can go 100 miles for $2.94, compared to $10.80 with gasoline at $2.70 a gallon. Questar's vehicle fueling stations have seen a 60 percent increase in use over the past two years, Larsen said.

Questar passes along a 50-cent-per-gallon tax incentive that has driven prices in Utah to record lows. The natural gas utility has also created an infrastructure of fueling stations throughout the state that is second only to California’s.

Utah consumers who buy a new vehicle that runs only on natural gas qualify for a $4,000 tax credit. Utah will kick in another $3,000 in tax credits through its own program.

At this point, selection is limited to the Honda Civic GX.

Utah’s tax credit will pay up to half of what it costs to convert a vehicle, up to $2,500, or half of what a factory CNG vehicle’s incremental cost over a gasoline vehicle costs, up to $3,000.

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Comments

I think the Mormons intend to make Salt Lake City the
Bartertown of post Peak Oil America.

Duel-fuel CNG-Gasoline HEV car with a small CNG tank may be more economical than PHEV. Both may be plugged in at home for re-fueling or recharging, but CNG-home pluggable car does not have to worry about the high cost of battery, and the CNG tank will last for the life of the car.

This may well be America most viable near-term energy security solution. Biomass and coal can be easily converted to methane to supplement the dwindling NG reserve.

How about a CNG/PHEV? When the oil runs out, gas is next so one can expect the prices to increase over time. But, right now CHG in Utah sounds like the best deal in town. And, if we could get the same deal here, I would be willing to wait another new car cycle for my BEV. The people in Utah are helping greatly with our effort to reduce foreign oil. Hats Off!

CNG is much cleaner to burn than gasoline or diesel, so that is the good news.

The bad news is that CNG is still a finite fossil fuel. It would seem to me that we should save as much natural gas as we can to heat our homes and it would be better to fuel our vehicles with electricity from renewables.

I live in Utah and the air is so bad that we have to do something. People are dying from breathing all the crap in the air.

Natural gas is only as a matter of course a fossil fuel because those who would try to make a business out of renewable NG are intimidated by the risk of going up against sometimes-cheap gas from wells. Now, if we got in gear and introduced the carbon tax, the landscape would change. Ethanol makers would have to compete with natural gas makers for feedstocks. The reason liquid biofuels command a premium is that they can give compatibility with vehicles that were designed in a way that was supposed to be cheap, based on cheap petrolem. But once the natural gas vehicle becomes mainstream, the price premium for the NGV will be small and the value of bio-NG will be comparable to other biofuel. So NG can be around forever if we still need it.

All the technologies for storing hydrogen are available in similar forms for NG, but NG is three times easier. Carbon-based adsorbents are very promising for a low-cost car, especially with a small tank/dual fuel setup. (That setup has promise but only if you can avoid wasting the advantages of NG and abusing its reputation over the restrictions of gasoline compatibility, like low efficiency. Better yet the fallback liquid fuel should be high-octane only, e.g. ethanol, propane or maybe premium gasoline.)

Lots of NG can be liberated from other uses with solar and wind, heat pumps, cogeneration and efficiency boosts. Then it can be used to soften demand for petroleum considerably while we're waiting for xEV's to ramp up enough to come to the rescue.

CNG is not as good as PHEV, and would seem to be a competitor but really it will help the PHEV cause because it won't do so much good to try to sabotage PHEV to keep the demand inelasticity severe for petroleum, with consumers wriggling out of oil's grip with NG anyway.

There are lots of places in the world where NG is as cheap as in Utah, so these cars should be a good investment. Now, if only we can find a way to keep the locals from falling in love with their wells so the global warming problem won't be worsened by NGV's as a side effect of improving the oil dependence geopolitics.

That's where the PHEV comes in. That natural gas can generate juice for the overnight charge and the CO2 can be pumped back down a neighboring spent well. Hydrogen can do this too but not as efficiently or with the same high economic promise.

That Bartertown comment is pretty funny, to me at least. As a group, the Mormons probably understand the benefits of self-sufficiency better than many in the US. Only fleet operators can by the Civic GX car here in FL.

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