ACT News: The Time for Natural Gas Vehicles is Now
by Daniel Gage
October 23, 2019
According to the American Lung Association’s 2019 “State of the Air” report, over 141 million Americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution, an increase of more than seven million since 2018. Exposure to unhealthy air raises the risk of premature death as well as increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. This increased risk is evidenced by the fact that 25 million Americans, or 8% of our total population, suffers from asthma.
Asthma can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, income, or residence; however, it disproportionately impacts children and lower income Americans in more urban environs. In fact, from 2001 to 2009, the greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50% increase). About 1 in 6 (17%) of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among all racial/ethnic groups. While there are many factors that contribute to this growing public health epidemic, the transportation sector is a leading source of toxic air contaminants throughout the country.
The Fastest Growing Transportation Sector
Heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), such as trucks and buses, total just 7% of all vehicles on America’s roadways but they account for 50% of all smog-precursor emissions–including nitrogen oxide (NOx) and diesel particulate matter (DPM)–and 20% of all transportation-related greenhouse gases (GHGs).
HDVs are the fastest growing segment of US transportation in terms of energy use and emissions. Today’s growing just-in-time delivery expectation and expanding goods movement industry ensure the number of trucks on our roads won’t be reduced anytime soon.
The transportation sector is a leading source of toxic air contaminants throughout the country. Simply put, if we want cleaner air, we need cleaner trucks. The good news is there is an immediate and commercially-available solution to this problem–near-zero-emission natural gas vehicles (NGVs).
NGVs have long been the choice of fleet managers interested in escaping the volatility of gas and diesel prices. Natural gas powers passenger vehicles, short- and long-haul trucks, school buses, transit buses and shuttles, refuse trucks, construction and mining equipment, ships, and railcars.
Natural Gas is Affordable and Widely Available
Unlike oil, natural gas enjoys significant price stability over time. Additionally, with a well-established and growing infrastructure of 2,000+ CNG and LNG fueling stations, along with 2.5 million miles of pipeline, natural gas fuel is easily accessible.
Natural Gas Supply is Abundant and Domestic
Almost 98% of all natural gas consumed in the US is produced in the US. Domestic natural gas reserves alone are estimated to be twice that of petroleum reserves, based on current consumption–enough to last more than 100 years.
Natural Gas Contributes to our Nation’s Energy Security
Displacing diesel with natural gas reduces our reliance on petroleum-based fuels. When compared to electricity from the grid, existing natural gas infrastructure can more efficiently accommodate a spike in demand.
Not only is natural gas a price-stable, cost-effective fuel, it also reduces overall maintenance costs. Its lack of lead means no fouling of spark plugs and crankcase oil does not become diluted or contaminated. Natural gas is cleaner burning, extending intervals between oil changes and tune ups. Natural gas also does not react to metal, making it less corrosive than diesel. It is common for heavy-duty NGVs to run 1 million miles or more without reconditioning.
Near Zero Medium- and Heavy-Duty Technology The cleanest heavy-duty truck engines throughout the world are powered by natural gas. The Cummins Westport Ultra-Low NOx engine–made in America –is 90% cleaner than the EPA’s current NOx standard and 90% cleaner than its latest available diesel engine counterpart.
This technology is widely available for sale in the United States today, not in a projected five or ten years as electric and other developing technologies estimate. The Cummins Westport product is certified by EPA and California Air Resources Board to a 0.02 grams per brake horsepower hour (g/bhp-hr) standard, making it a zero-emission equivalent (ZEE). When renewable natural gas is used to fuel NGVs, even greater CO2 and GHG emission reductions are achieved, up to 125% lower than diesel.
NGVs are powered by American fuel, American technology, and American innovation. They have the cleanest well-to-wheels emissions profile of any fuel on the market today. NGVs are making a difference through a variety of applications–medium- and heavy-duty trucks, refuse, transit, and even marine and rail.
The bottom line is simple: Our ever-growing population has put an incredible burden on the need to provide solutions to transport our neighbors, our goods, and our refuse. Emissions, particularly urban emissions, have a major impact on public health—more than 4 out of every 10 Americans live in areas with air that is unhealthy to breathe.
We call on our partners at every level of government to consider passing legislation that makes the use of natural gas and natural gas vehicles a priority so we can create a more environmentally-conscious transportation system.