Natural gas is a natural reaction, but . . .

What is going to happen to the price when demand skyrockets?

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Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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I don't think the enthusiasm behind compressed natural gas (CNG) is going to flame out anytime soon. In fact, it is most likely going to grow as fast as a California wildfire.

The NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis last week showcased commercial truck manufacturers either on the cusp of CNG technology or already knee deep in it.

 

The experts say North America alone has over a 100-year supply of CNG, and there already are over 1,000 filling stations, with the most sitting in California, Oklahoma, New York and Utah. CNG does have some limitations. General Motors announced a CNG-charged Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck at the NTEA show. Actually, the commercial vehicle carries both a CNG tank and gasoline tank. According to GM, the operator can "seamlessly" switch between CNG and gasoline, but the vehicle must cold start in gasoline mode. The fuel efficiency running off CNG is almost identical to gasoline, however, you will lose some horsepower. Of course, the upside to all of this is the cost savings. GM says the price for CNG is just over $2 a gallon. Quite a bargain compared to the always growing price of gasoline. And do not let the lack of CNG stations disappoint you, either. Most companies can have the natural resource shipped right to their site.

 

Of course, what is going to happen when this flicker of interest turns into an inferno? What happens when the demand goes through the roof? Most likely, the price of CNG will inflate. And what about the natural gas that warms are homes? Is it going to be more expensive in about 10 years when thousands upon thousands of pickups are sucking the juices under the North American soil? I believe it will, and if that is the case is driving on CNG really a good thing? Don't get me wrong, breaking our dependence of foreign oil is a big positive, and CNG certainly is better for the environment. However, hydrogen-powered engines are what really excite me. We probably have enough salt water to last a million years, and consumption will never be tied to my home heating bill. Can you feel the tidal wave of excitement? No? Well, give it about 10 years.

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