Oregon should promote natural gas vehicles

   Luckily, natural gas powered vehicles are a ready-made solution to reduce harmful emissions from the heavy-duty vehicles we need for commerce, commuting and getting our kids to school.

   Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, producing nearly 40 percent of the total. Diesel-powered trucks and buses contribute significantly to bad air days. Natural gas vehicles are much cleaner than diesel vehicles and capable of doing the same work. They feature significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and in harmful air pollutants including fine particulates, nitrous oxides and sulfur oxides.

   For instance, the newest diesel motors emit up to twenty times more nitrous oxides than the latest natural gas engines. We are all affected by diesel pollution, but especially the most vulnerable populations: children, elderly and the sick.

   Vehicle emissions are a problem we need to address right now. That’s one reason why companies like Waste Management, UPS, Frito Lay and Fred Meyer currently operate natural gas vehicles as part of their local fleets.

   The opportunity to convert other fleets to natural gas is enormous. There’s another plus: they can run on renewable natural gas. Every landfill and sewage treatment plant produces renewable natural gas but few communities make use of it. Hauling big loads using ultra-low emitting engines could provide up to a 115 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a similar decrease in toxic air pollutants.

   Remember the Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor in “Back To the Future?” It used household garbage to run the DeLorean Time Machine. Using renewable natural gas to fuel vehicles is a big step in that very direction.

   The future is now in the Pacific Northwest. We can make the jump to cleaner transportation by prioritizing natural gas vehicles for some of Oregon’s Volkswagen settlement funds; giving fleet owners practical alternatives to replacing old diesel engines with new ones; earmarking funds for conversions of publicly owned fleets, and facilitating the build-out of safe, clean natural gas fueling stations.

   Transitioning passenger cars to electric vehicles is important and we’re making good progress on that front. However, putting electric vehicles to work moving large loads over varied terrain is a long way off. Every day we wait to address this issue is another day vulnerable citizens are exposed to the toxic health effects of diesel exhaust. It is time to make real change now by putting natural gas vehicles on our roads.


By Dan Kirschner, executive director of the NW Gas Association.

East Oregonian

August 1, 2017