Automakers look to natural gas for alternative fuel source

In the wake of rising gasoline prices, there's been a push to find alternative ways to power our vehicles. Later this year, you might have another option -- compressed natural gas, or CNG.

"Chrysler and GM have announced some production in the fourth quarter for natural gas or compressed gas automobiles," said General Sales Manager for Brown Automotive Group, Kyle McAdams. "It's going to be based on the three quarter ton trucks and the six liter V8's."

Wayne Hughes with Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association said natural is abundant in the United States, but particularly in the Panhandle. Because we can produce it domestically in large amounts, that's one more good reason, Hughes said, we're looking to move forward with natural gas powered vehicles.

"We have the largest production of natural gas," he said. "It truly is a domestic form of fuel. We do not have to rely and never will have to rely on foreign sources for natural gas," said Hughes.

"I think it's a good move," added McAdams. "obviously, anything we can do to decrease our dependency of foreign oils is a smart move in my opinion."

Being produced domestically isn't the only "pro" many see in CNG as an alternative fuel source, it's also better for our environment and atmosphere.

"It's the logical clean fuel for automotive traffic for light and heavy vehicles of all kinds because it burns cleaner than gasoline does," Hughes explained. "The engine is going to be cleaner, there will be less stress on the engine, there are fewer potential pollutants put into the atmosphere because it is a precombusted gas."

But using natural gas might have a few downsides as well. The technology for vehicles that run on natural gas hasn't taken off yet, meaning there aren't many places you can find natural gas sold commercially. So even if you've got a car that runs on natural gas, you may not be able to fill it up. At least, not nearby.

"There is no place where commercial natural gas is readily available," said Hughes. "You've got to either put in a home fueling system or hope that sometime in the future convenience stores will see fit to spend the money and make the investment to put in natural gas filling operations. So far, that hasn't happened."

Of course, cost is another factor for most consumers. Will it be cheaper? Hughes doesn't think so.

"It's about the same price as regular gasoline as far as the distance you can drive with it and these kinds of considerations," added Hughes. "It's a break even proposition."

"It's one of those deals, it's catch 22 if you will," added McAdams. "We'll just see what happens and if it really takes hold and truly becomes an alternative fuel source."

Hughes told Pronews 7 the only natural gas fueling operation in our area is in Pampa. Pampa ISD has vehicles powered by compressed natural gas and has a fueling station at their bus barn.