With oil prices soaring and gasoline expected to hit the $4-to-$5-per-gallon mark this spring and summer, it makes sense for companies to continue to explore how best to use natural gas to help fuel the nation's vehicles.
A new partnership announced last week between Chesapeake Energy and General Electric to provide 250 modular "CNG in a Box" stations appears to be a step in the right direction.
CNG stands for compressed natural gas, and currently is used to power more than 12 million vehicles worldwide - 110,000 of which are in the U.S., which leaves plenty of room for growth.
What Chesapeake and GE are planning to do is tap into the nation's vast natural gas reserves. The companies would make their "CNG in a Box" available to local filling stations by tapping into a natural gas pipeline. The technology allows that raw natural gas to then be compressed on-site so it can be dispensed into a CNG-ready vehicle.
"These products and services will allow customers to enjoy the clear advantages of clean, affordable and abundant American natural gas at about half the cost of gasoline," Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon said.
The availability of CNG-fueled vehicles is a problem, as currently there is only one factory-built CNG vehicle available in the U.S. - the Honda Civic. U.S. carmakers are working to address this, as both GM and Chrysler have unveiled CNG-ready pickup trucks that will be available later this year.
While it's good to see that compressed natural gas as an alternative to oil is gaining traction, that could change in an instant if oil prices drop. That has happened several times over the past few years, when alternatives to foreign oil such as gasoline made from coal have started to gain traction. Given the fluctuation of global oil prices, it's imperative for the nation that an alternative be found.