OUR OPINION: NATURAL GAS | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

OUR OPINION: NATURAL GAS

What's the holdup?

Posted: February 28, 2012 - 4:37pm

News headlines predict it, the evening news affirms it, and the signage at every gas station proves it — prices at the pump are continuing to soar to near historic highs.

Why the surge? Why now?

The price of oil has reached its highest level since June last year due to rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, including European Union sanctions against Iran that have not yet gone into full effect.

Light crude hit a high of $109.77 on Feb. 24, sliding a bit to $108.38 during the day Friday, just a few bucks from the historic high of $114.09.

Is there a solution? Yes. It’s natural gas.

Worldwide reserves of natural gas are at an all-time high. As of Jan. 1, the world had proven reserves of natural gas of 6,746,751 billion cubic feet. That compares to the world’s 1,523.2 barrels of oil, according to Petroleum Insights, a website established to monitor the world’s fuel reserves.

Natural gas has been used in California, Nevada and Utah since the early 2000s. Buses servicing the states’ airports were fueled with natural gas. Even in the Twin Cities, some buses are powered by natural gas. Now, in Minnesota there’s a move toward the plentiful, cheap natural gas among 18-wheelers. Natural gas runs an equivalent $1 to $2 less per gallon that diesel fuel.

According to a Star Tribune article in Monday’s issue claims that a few Minnesota-based companies are turning to natural gas, including Andersen Windows and Dart Transit Co.

Don’t look for instant relief. Car manufacturers are waiting for customers to demand the cars and trucks that run on the cheaper fuel. Of course, expect to pay more for these cars. Right now, for example, Honda is offering a Civic Natural gas model, with a price tag of $26,155 and an estimated MPG 27 City /38 Highway. General Motors is offering a cargo van that runs on natural gas. Most car and truck manufacturers will offer natural gas powered vehicles as customer demand rises.

So what’s the holdup? Why not switch to natural gas now? Fueling stations, enough vehicles fitted with natural gas engines to warrant construction of fueling stations, and public awareness and demand stand between the cleaner burning fuel and weaning this nation from gasoline and diesel fuel.