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Alt Fuel Fleet Shrinks in Atlanta

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on the cutting or outright abandonment of alternative fuel fleets in the Atlanta area. There are some good insights in this article.

MARTA remains committed to compressed natural-gas buses — 74 percent of its fleet is CNG — but several local companies have cut or abandoned alternative-fuel service fleets.

Even Atlanta Gas Light, once an aggressive advocate for natural gas vehicles, has cut its natural gas fleet from more than 600 vehicles to nine.

Metro Atlanta now has 1,847 alternative-fuel vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Last year, local operators retired 2,314 alt-fuel vehicles and added only 643. The agency predicts a net loss of at least an additional 200 vehicles in 2004.

One factor in Georgia was natural gas deregulation, which reshaped the way natural gas is marketed and sold and halted the growth of refueling stations.

At present, most mass-production attention is focused on electric-gas hybrids and high hopes for hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

Demand for hybrids has risen with gas prices this year, but they aren’t considered alt-fuel vehicles because they still rely on gas. Alternative fuels include propane, ethanol, electricity or natural gas.

Many local companies report that alt-fuel refueling stations are infrequent and inconvenient, which reduces fleet efficiency and sends operating costs skyward.

There is more—it’s worth a read. The rising price of natural gas, the lack of focus on a multiple-technology program rather than a magic bullet—all these play into the confusion and decline. At the same time, there are numerous companies that are staying committed to their alternative-fuel fleets. The bottom line:

“You really need a coordinated commitment between government and industry,” said Dan Lashof, a researcher at the National Resources Defense Council. “[The decline] is emblematic of the fact that we don't have the needed national commitment to reduce petroleum dependence.”

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