CNG one part of energy solution

   The American love affair with big, powerful, gasoline-powered vehicles has kept interest in cars powered by compressed natural gas tamped down, but there is evidence that we are changing.

   Worldwide, there are tens of millions of CNG vehicles, but estimates place the number in the United States at just 185,000, we learned in a business report in Sunday’s edition. Of those 185,000, no more than 1,000 are in Arkansas with just 180 in the greater Fort Smith region, according to Tom Atchley, excise tax administrator for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which tracks the number of CNG vehicles.

   Despite the low numbers, or maybe because of them, Barry Rowton recently opened Falcon CNG, a natural gas vehicle conversion shop, on Wheeler Avenue in Fort Smith. Mr. Rowton believes that as CNG fuel becomes more readily available, people will be interested in making the switch. In Fort Smith, AOG operates a station at its office on Waldron Road, and it is building a high-flow capacity CNG station near the airport. It also supplies the OnCue station in Arkoma. Falcon CNG is the only conversion outlet in the northwest quadrant of the state.

   Why the interest? CNG sells for about $1.63 to $1.99 per gallon equivalent. That’s a nice reduction from the $3.30 to $3.40 per gallon that gasoline vehicle users are seeing. The conversion isn’t cheap: $7,000 plus a $2,000 to $4,000 conversion kit. Arkansas expects to have a rebate program available in the next fiscal year that will refund about half the cost of conversion with EPA-certified kits. Oklahoma’s 50 percent refund will be available whether or not the kits are EPA-certified.

   Gasoline engines that go through the conversion can run on just gas, just CNG or a combination. Usually the default is to run on CNG and switch automatically to gas if CNG runs out. Converted diesel motors run on a mixture of diesel and CNG.

   Is CNG for you? Maybe not today unless you put 80,000 miles a year on your vehicles. But maybe someday.

   It’s clear that there is no single answer to ending our dependence on foreign oil. More likely a combination of things — solar, wind, natural gas, tar sands oil, even coal — will provide the answers. We are going to need to find ways to make using all of these things cleaner, safer and more efficient. Right now, conversion to CNG power is one part of the answer, a part that’s being researched here in western Arkansas.


Editorial Times Record‎

June 5, 2014