By Crystal Burns
Pat Riley continues his mission to promote natural gas.
The Gibson County Utility District general manager regularly speaks to civic clubs across West Tennessee, meets with state legislators, and rallies his colleagues to extol the benefits natural gas provides the environment and economy. Last week, Riley updated the Trenton Exchange Club on energy trends and more.
“Natural gas is good for America in a lot of ways,” he said.
In 2010, there were 6.2 million people living in Tennessee. The population is projected to increase 19 percent by 2030. The senior popular (age 65 and up) is expected to rise from 850,000 in 2010 to 1.7 million by 2030. Riley says that those figures mean there will be a bigger demand for energy and affordable options for those living on fixed incomes.
In 2015, America met its energy needs with oil (36.6 percent), natural gas (29 percent), coal (16 percent), nuclear (8.6 percent), hydro (2.4 percent), and other sources (7.3 percent).
The United States ranks 18th in Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV), which Riley has long promoted. The Gibson County Utility District currently has 18 dual fuel trucks in its fleet; all of them primarily use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is available at the district’s CNG filling station. GCUD recently received the Green Fleet Award.
Riley said there are now 14 CNG stations in Tennessee and 348 in the United States. He and GCUD engineer Brian Patterson organized the From Sea to Shining Sea CNG Road Rally in 2016 and drove 3,143 miles from California to Washington, D.C. on 136 gallons of gas equivalent (GGE) of CNG at a total of $251.60. The average price was $1.85 per gallon. In Oklahoma, they paid just 35 cents per gallon, Riley said.
Riley called Oklahoma, home to the most CNG stations in the country, the CNG Mecca of the United States.
“They believe in it,” he said.
The state offers or has plans to offer incentives such as NGV loans to individuals that purchase new or converted CNG vehicles, NGV rebates, NGV weight exemption, and tax credits.
Riley said there are 2.6 million miles of paved roads in America and 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines. Trucking companies, shipping giants, and other large businesses are already seeing the value in switching to CNG. The Gibson County CNG station sees regular traffic from Budweiser, Core Mark, Waste Management, Rayl Trucking, and UPS. Waste Management has promised to send more business here when its new fleet arrives in Jackson.
In addition to saving money in fuel costs, Riley said smaller fleets and individuals can also see savings on the back end because NGVs run longer and cleaner than other automobiles. He said GCUD saves $100,000 every year it doesn’t have to buy a new truck, but few manufacturers have caught up. For example, Riley said if he purchased a new vehicle locally, the dealership would have to send it to be converted to NGV, which could take up to three weeks. He’s bought the last three GCUD trucks from Oklahoma and gotten them in three days.
Riley hopes that will change as NGVs find favor with the public.
Farmers can also benefit from CNG. Riley showed Exchange Club members a photo of a “fuel mule,” a vehicle that carries 350 gallons of CNG that the GCUD could place at a central location for several farmers to use if manufacturers would convert farm equipment to CNG instead of diesel. Local farmers have already converted 21 irrigation pivots to natural gas.