By Crystal Burns
When Gibson County Utility District General Manager Pat Riley met David Kustoff at No-Till in 2016, the two struck up a conversation.
Kustoff was then a Republican candidate for the 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat he won easily a few months later. Riley asked Kustoff to visit the GCUD compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station, which he often boasts is the greenest in the country, and Kustoff said he would.
Friday, Kustoff made good on his promise. He began his tour at the district office where Riley explained the benefits of natural gas and CNG vehicles. The congressman then toured the filling station, getting a demonstration of how the pumps work before hopping in the driver’s seat to take Riley’s 2010 Ford F-150 for a ride.
“I’m very impressed,” Kustoff said of his visit. “We need to look at alternative forms of energy. This shows what our future can look like if we’re all committed to it.”
Kustoff said he likes that natural gas is reliable, clean, less expensive, and could make America less dependent on foreign energy sources.
“One incident, one military action can change the price of oil and gas tremendously,” Kustoff said. “It makes this all the more important.”
Kustoff said he isn’t hearing much about natural gas in Washington, but he expects that to change once legislators address other challenges such as health care, tax reform, and banking reform.
“Our current health care system is not working, and Obamacare is failing,” Kustoff said. “We’ve got to lower our taxes. That coupled with banking reform would be huge economically for West Tennessee.”
Kustoff said his first few months in office have been busy, but he comes home every weekend to tour the district and spend as much time as possible with his wife and two children.
Riley was grateful for Kustoff spending an hour-and-a-half at GCUD.
“He is really involved with this whole technology,” Riley said. “I appreciate him taking his time to spend with us.”
Riley hopes that Kustoff will return to Washington and share his experience at GCUD with his fellow legislators and asked the congressman to tell the president about Gibson County’s investment in natural gas should he get an audience with President Trump.
Built in 2015, the CNG filling station features two islands with one pump each and two hoses per pump located beneath a 30 ft. by 50 ft. canopy. The station is powered by a bank of solar panels during the day and goes on the grid after dark.
“There is very little electrical usage at night,” Riley said. “All of our pole lighting has small solar panels on them for powering the lights. The natural gas generator makes the power to push gas to the compressors.”
CNG is currently sold for $1.99 per gallon at the station. Last year Riley organized a CNG From Sea to Shining Sea Road Rally that began in Long Beach, Calif. and ended in Washington, D.C. Riley said he got to Long Beach for just $194, paying an average of $1.74 per gallon of CNG.
There are currently a handful of trucking firms that regularly fill up at the CNG station in Trenton, Riley said. Ryal is a regular customer, and Waste Management plans to add to its fleet in Jackson soon, and officials have assured Riley that they will utilize the Gibson County station.
The utility district has 18 natural gas vehicles in its fleet. Since natural gas is easier and cleaner on the engine, Riley says he can drive the NGVs 200,000 miles before retiring them. Every year, the utility district doesn’t buy three trucks, it saves $100,000, he said.
“These are some of the back side savings that we are going to experience, and so can any fleet that goes this route of compressed natural gas,” Riley said.