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Switching fleets to CNG is a no-brainer
Howard Richman, 1/19/2012

When I was in Boston for my youngest daughter's college graduation, I noticed that all of the within-airport buses were running on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).  They looked the same as other buses, except that they did not give off diesel smoke. Since CNG burns cleaner, their engines will probably last longer without requiring oil changes.

The switch of Boston Airport buses to CNG is part of a growing switch of fleets to CNG. Eventually, the increasing number of CNG filling stations will make it possible for households to switch to CNG. (Click here to see the GM pick-up truck that I plan to buy once a CNG filling station opens up in my area.)

The main drawbacks of CNG are: (1) filling stations are not readily available everywhere, and (2) the fuel tanks take up more room on the vehicle. Neither of these drawbacks applies to public buses. In a January 18 blog entry on the Pike Research website, Anissa Dehamna  (In D.C., Running on Natural Gas) suggests that the switch-over can save the public transportation companies money, even if they have to build their own filling stations:

My colleagues on Pike’s Smart Transportation team have done research on natural gas vehicles, but it wasn’t until my colleague Lisa Jerram began researching her latest report on total cost of ownership for fleets – including natural gas vehicles – that I appreciated why a city would consider alternative fuel vehicles. Then, I started noticing government natural gas vehicles all over the city.

Since existing natural gas infrastructure is limited, and many natural gas vehicle fleet operators choose to install compressed natural gas infrastructure onsite, the low fueling costs typically make up for the high capital expenditure. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities group, October 2011 prices for compressed natural gas were $2.09 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge). Compare those prices to gasoline ($3.46) or diesel ($3.42) and it’s easy to see why cities that are concerned about air quality and operating budgets might take the long view and decide to build fleets around natural gas.

As my father and I noted in our May 12, 2011, American Thinker commentary (How to Switch to CNG while Saving Taxpayer Money), prices of gasoline and CNG were approximately equal up until 2006, but, since then, gasoline prices have nearly doubled while CNG prices have been steady. With natural gas reserves growing rapidly and oil reserves relatively stagnant, this disparity will likely increase over the coming years.

According to the principle of substitution, one of the basic principles of economics, after coffee prices increase, demand for tea increases. So, with oil prices increasing and CNG prices steady, we can expect a huge switch to CNG over the coming decade. There is no legitimate reason for public transportation providers to delay the switch. It's a no-brainer.

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Comment by Pitts Burgh, 6/21/2013:

i agree that Switching fleets to CNG is a no-brainer.

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]