The growing supply of natural gas and subsequent lower prices compared to other sources of energy is causing companies to consider it as a fuel source. Arielle Nagel, who is pursuing her Master’s of Science in Environmental Sustainability, provides several examples in today’s post.
There are a lot of benefits to using natural gas as an alternative fuel source.
- Natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, producing less environmental pollutants.
- It can reduce the risk of smog, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions.
- It’s efficient – about 90% of natural gas produced is delivered as useful energy, compared to 30% of energy converted into electricity.
- Natural gas prices are consistently two to three times lower than electric prices.
So why aren’t more people using natural gas? Although natural gas consumption is on the rise, traditional vehicles still outnumber alternate fuel vehicles (AFVs) on the road in the U.S.
One answer is cost. Switching to natural gas, though more economical in the long run, could cost more upfront.Another is convenience. Natural gas refueling stations are limited, while traditional gas stations are on every corner.
Experts suggest that it will just take time. Time to adjust energy infrastructure. Time to increase public awareness. Time to change energy consumption habits.
But some companies are moving faster toward natural gas than others. Let’s take a look at a few businesses that are paving the way for natural gas use – and becoming more sustainable along the way.
Verizon. In 2011, communications giant Verizon added 13 cargo vans converted to run on compressed natural gas to its Florida fleet.
Verizon also added 20 hybrid vehicles to the same fleet. In total, the company has purchased more than 600 hybrid pick-up trucks and more than 500 vans and trucks converted to run on natural gas. Verizon is also trying to facilitate biofuel use in existing Verizon vehicles.
The company estimated that its hybrid and AFVs would cut more than 2,550 metric tons of greenhouse gas and conserve 290,000 gallons of fuel annually – the equivalent of keeping 500 cars off the road for a year.
AT&T. AT&T is also trying to decrease its carbon footprint. Through a deal with General Motors, the company is planning to gradually replace more than 15,000 vehicles with alternative fuel models by 2018.
AT&T will invest $350 million in 8,000 CNG-powered vans over the next 5 years. AT&T recently purchased 1,200 vans designed to run on compressed natural gas. And In January 2012, the company put its 5,000th AFV on the road.
AT&T’s alternate fuel investments go toward the company’s larger mission to be more environmentally sustainable – and save on fuel costs. In pledging to reduce its petroleum use, AT&T joined other large private companies in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Fleets Partnership.
Waste Management. Waste disposal company Waste Management has been involved in the natural gas movement since the 1990s, and it continues to increase the number of alternate fuel vehicles they use.
Waste Management operates more than 2,400 natural gas-powered vehicles across the nation. In 2007, they announced plans to reduce their emissions by 15% by 2020 – a goal they exceeded in 2012.
In addition to improving sustainability with alternative fuel vehicles, Waste Management is also expanding public access to natural gas. The company has opened 50 natural gas fueling stations across the country, most recently in Jackson, Mississippi.
These companies – all big names in their fields – are paving the way for natural gas use in corporate America. Will other businesses soon follow suit?