Skelton discussed the growing use of compressed and liquefied natural gas with members of the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce’s transportation committee Wednesday.
“The underlying commodity is at 35 cents a gallon,” Skelton said.
That’s 28 cents a therm, with 1.25 therms to a gallon. He said 98 percent of the natural gas used in the United States is produced domestically and the country has reserves — based on current consumption rates — that would last well over 100 years. Forecasts for gas prices, he added, all show flat to stable.
Skelton also told the business audience that the use of natural gas reduces emissions by more than 90 percent over diesel and gasoline fueled vehicles.
“It is inherently cleaner,” he said. “It provides the best opportunities for high-volume return to base fleets, such as solid waste and transit operations. That’s where you’re going to get you best payback.”
Rome City Manager John Bennett and City Transit Director Kathy Shealy were among those taking in details related to fleet use of compressed natural gas. Shealy said the Rome bus system uses between 12,000 and 13,000 gallons of fuel each month. Bennett said the entire city fleet of vehicles consumes more than 450,000 gallons of fuel each year.
City Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter said he was pleased to see both Bennett and Shealy at the meeting.
“We’re looking at all kinds of ways to save money in the operation of all departments in the city, and if this could save us a significant amount of money across our fleet then it’s worth looking at,” Wachsteter said.
Bennett said the city has been looking at converting some of its fleet for almost ten years.
“We could easily have a hundred vehicles, without police cars, that we could think about doing it,” Bennett said. “It definitely has merit.”
AGL has provided the resources to serve the MARTA system in Atlanta, which runs 370 natural gas-fueled buses. Skelton said the natural gas units used by MARTA save more than 150,000 barrels of oil each year.
Skelton pointed out that a growing number of automakers are making vehicles that use natural gas as original equipment.
A version of the Honda Civic that uses CNG has been on the market for 15 years. Chrysler, GM and Chevrolet are all introducing pick-up trucks that are bi-fuel vehicles, running on both traditional gas and natural gas. AGL Resources will host a bi-fuel conference at its Atlanta headquarters on April 4.
There are seven public access compressed natural gas filling stations in the Atlanta area at this time, but none of them are on the northwest side of the city. AGL has also helped develop CNG facilities in Macon, Savannah and Valdosta.
“Can you see the hole up here in Northwest Georgia?” Skelton asked.