Pennsylvania sits atop an abundant supply of natural gas that, according to a study from Penn State University, could be producing more than 17 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day by 2020. The safe and responsible development of this abundant resource can power our transportation sector for generations to come with a cleaner, more affordable source of fuel.
Last week, I participated in an event at Penn State Lehigh Valley titled, “Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs): The Road Ahead in Pennsylvania” that discussed policies to encourage infrastructure development for greater use of natural gas for transportation. This Penn State Extension-sponsored forum showcased how natural gas vehicles can benefit Pennsylvanians. Various experts on NGVs and natural gas vehicle fueling stations discussed the technical and economic aspects of NGVs and supporting infrastructure.
For fleets who consume large quantities of fuel, NGVs are a smart economic alternative. With gas prices remaining unpredictable, the greater use of vehicles powered by natural gas would provide substantial savings for fleets. One recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration found natural gas currently costs 42 percent less on average than traditional gasoline, and is expected to cost 50 percent less than traditional fuels by 2035.
It is an exciting time to be working on NGVs and infrastructure development in Pennsylvania because events on the national scene are supporting it and are helping to drive it forward. For example, the major vehicle manufacturers are serious about producing all types of vehicles that will run on natural gas, and they are taking orders for NGVs. There is also capital investment flowing into the NGV industry and the fueling station infrastructure arena; allowing more innovation and improving already viable technologies. The vehicle and the fueling station markets are developing simultaneously which is critical. It is apparent that transportation industry leaders are recognizing the abundance and affordability of natural gas.
For our environment, natural gas vehicles offer numerous benefits that make their increased use attractive. Vehicles powered with natural gas emit less carbon dioxide than traditional diesel vehicles and reduce smog-producing nitrogen oxide pollutants. With the Marcellus Shale resources under our feet, it makes sense to utilize our resources for the benefit of our economy and our environment.
The challenge before us is the need to develop more infrastructure to support the use of these vehicles; namely refueling stations. The largest initiative currently underway is the Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Corridor (PCTC), which establishes a plan for developing natural gas fueling stations along our state’s major highway network from Philadelphia/Allentown through Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, and then running in the north along I-80 connecting arterials near Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. Once completed, this will allow drivers to travel across the state in clean running natural gas vehicles that can be readily refueled. Fleet investment and use of NGVs will also cause fueling stations to pop up in other regions, and hopefully those stations will be open to the public.
We can draw some parallels to the Pennsylvania/Northeast NGV market development from an initiative called the Texas Clean Transportation Triangle that is well underway in another natural gas producing state. One of the presentations featured Lynn Lyon who traveled from Texas to share their success story.
Here in the Commonwealth, in an effort to help municipal and commercial fleet owners make informed decisions about conversion to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced a Natural Gas Vehicle Website and Technical Assistance plan. Act 13 of 2012 authorizes DEP to develop and implement a Natural Gas Energy Development Program to distribute up to $20 million in grants over three years to help pay for the incremental purchase and conversion costs of natural gas fleet vehicles. For more information on this program, visit www.dep.state.pa.us.As we in Pennsylvania consider cleaner alternatives for our transportation needs, I encourage all Pennsylvanians to educate themselves on the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas vehicles and I encourage our state leaders to enact policies that encourage greater infrastructure development necessary for their use. It is time for Pennsylvania to get on the road to a cleaner transportation future.
Thank you to Penn State for hosting this event and we look forward to more. It’s an honor to help interested organizations, companies and individuals learn more about Pennsylvania’s opportunity to be a leader in NGV market development.