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Natural gas could become the new ethanol -- the alternative fuel of choice -- if a new bill passes. Like ethanol engines, gas-natural gas dual mode engines suffer a performance loss of as much as 15 percent.  (Source:

The U.S. has among the world's most abundant natural gas deposits (regions with highest levels shown in brown).  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A variety of vehicle weight classes are covered by new natural gas bill

A new bill, NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions), has been proposed by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV),and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which looks to push natural gas vehicles into the consumer mainstream.  The proposal looks to offer a bevy of natural gas vehicle purchasing, refueling and manufacturing tax credits which would eclipse even current credits for electric vehicles.

People purchasing a light vehicle capable of running on natural gas would get a $12,500 tax credit, significantly more than the $7,500 credit offered for plug-in vehicles.  Current tax credits for three other weight classes would double, up to a maximum of $80,000 for the largest vehicle class.

Bi-fuel (gas and natural gas) vehicles would also be eligible for a 50 percent incremental cost tax credit -- this means that 50 percent of the costs that companies assume from increasing production would be offset by tax credits.  The bill would also make it 100 percent tax deductible (with some limitations) to build a facility which builds natural gas vehicles.  The bill would also offer refueling stations up to $100,000 to provide natural gas vehicle refilling pumps.

The new bill was masterminded and heavily praised by oil and natural gas baron T. Boone Pickens.  Mr. Pickens had made headlines last year, announcing a massive wind power project.  Just last week, he essentially pulled the plug on the project, and called natural gas the "only option" for the U.S.

With his heavy natural gas holdings Mr. Pickens stands to make a small fortune if the bill should pass.  Indeed, the natural gas industry as a whole would see a huge boost from the bill.

Natural gas vehicles run on methane, the primary component of natural gas.  Methane engines run approximately as efficiently as gasoline/petrol engines, but are less efficient than diesel engines.  Dual-mode engines suffer a 10 to 15 percent efficiency loss over gas-only engines, due to the higher octane number of 120-130.

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RE: ridiculous
By Solandri on 7/13/2009 10:17:19 PM , Rating: 3
I am coming from a small European country, where around 2/3 of all the cars are running on propain/methane. Convertors cost several hundred dollars and bottle of the size of spare tire is used. This solution is essentially twise more economical than gas.

Natural gas, on the other hand, is not kept under extreme pressure, i.e infrastructure builds would be inexpensive. It doesn't require refining, like the oil does. 1000 q.feet, i.e. 230 gallons of nat gas cost around 8 dollars ....:)...It seems I will be very happy to have a car on natural gas.

Propane and natural gas are very different for transportation applications.

Propane liquefies at room temperature at about 12 atmospheres. You don't need a very strong tank to contain it. The pressure is low enough that you can just use a simple pump to fill it, and a simple valve to release it. In its liquid state, it has an energy density about equivalent to gasoline.

Methane (natural gas) is very different. In household applications where a supplier is constantly pumping you more, it doesn't need to be pressurized. But at atmospheric pressure, it only has about 1/800th the energy content of gasoline by volune.. That is, 1 gallon of natural gas at normal atmospheric pressure has as much energy as 1 teaspoon of gasoline.. Methane is completely impractical as a transportation fuel unless you compress it.

Compressed natural gas does not liquefy, and is typically stored at around 200 atmospheres of pressure (meaning it still takes about 4x the volume of an equivalent amount of gasoline by energy content). You need a much stronger and more massive tank to hold it, as well as a stronger pump and more robust valve to fill and empty the tank in a controlled manner.

Because of this, methane works well for large vehicles, vehicles which don't need to haul luggage, and vehicles which share the same pump and maintenance personnel. City buses and taxicabs (which mostly move people with little or no luggage) are good applications. But it's highly impractical for a personal vehicle. The tank typically fills almost the entire trunk. The CNG Civic only has enough trunk space to fit a few bags of groceries. The rest of the trunk is taken up by the CNG tank.

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