Natural Gas a Viable Alternative Fuel

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Southern California and was bemoaning the cost to refuel his vehicle at just under $5 a gallon. Locally, we pay between $3.75 and $4 per gallon. While we don’t pay the California prices yet, filling our tanks remains a painful reminder that we are subject to the market demands and price fluctuations with few options for savings available to the average consumer.

As both a commuter and a legislator, I’m interested in fuel cost and impacts on families. The Legislature often receives reports from the petroleum industry about the price of gas and how the costs are beyond the industry’s control. But what would you say if I told you that some of our neighbors have found a place in downtown St. George where they fill up and pay less than $1.50 per gallon?

The answer to our cost problem lies in a movement picking up steam statewide to move away from traditional fuels of gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Utah is leading the nation in the movement. Fleets of state, area government and some school district vehicles and buses are being converted, or they are being purchased directly from the manufacturer equipped to operate with this alternative fuel technology. Private entities such as waste management companies and major long-haul trucking companies are converting their diesel engines to LNG or CNG, all designed to cut energy costs and the savings are dramatic. Aside from cost savings, there are even more reasons why we should be bringing the public’s attention to this alternative fuel which is so abundantly available in our state.

• Clean fuel — Natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Natural gas emissions contain significantly less pollution than gasoline: 70 to 90 percent less carbon monoxide, 50 percent less non-methane organic gas; 75 percent less nitrogen oxides and 20 percent less carbon.

• Domestic product — More than 90 percent of the natural gas available in the U.S. is produced in the U.S. With new drilling technologies, it’s estimated the U.S. has enough natural gas to last more than 100 years at current production. Using our own fuel reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

• Convenience — In years past, finding a CNG fueling station especially while traveling away from home could be a challenge. That’s all changing. In Utah, there are about 40 refueling stations available for private consumer use with more on the drawing board. Most of the stations exist along the I-15 corridor, and we are beginning to see an expansion to rural Utah. Utah is second only to California in the number of fueling stations available for CNG users. Refueling is easy and essentially no different than filling at a conventional gasoline pump.

• Consumer choices — In addition to conversion kits that can be installed on your existing vehicle, auto manufacturers are getting back in the game. For example, you can purchase a Honda Civic equipped from the factory as a CNG vehicle. For those of you who prefer driving a truck, you can order a GM or Dodge with CNG original equipment or a Ford CNG truck factory prepped for a conversion mechanic to install equipment after delivery.

• Tax incentives — Whether you are purchasing an originally equipped vehicle for CNG or converting an existing vehicle, there in an expense involved. The good news is that there are state and federal tax incentives in place to help offset the cost.

The bottom line is the number of CNG and LNG vehicles in Utah is growing, not only with private and government fleets, but the private consumer is catching on. There are so many “wins” for taxpayers, consumers, and our environment when it comes to CNG and LNG. But you don’t’ just have to take my word for it. Before investing in this technology, you should do your homework. I advise you to spend some time at

Rep. V. Lowry Snow wrote this article originally for The Spectrum for a rotating column with other legislators from Southern Utah during the legislative interim period. Originally published November 7, 2012.

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