Falling Fuel Prices Make CNG a Tough Sell

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Crude-oil production has been climbing steadily in the U.S. for more than a year, and that's had a huge impact on the prices we pay at the gas pump. In fact, prices haven't been this low since 2010, with some places in the country paying less than $3 per gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. Although fuel prices usually dip in autumn as fuel mixtures change and summer vacation driving slows, some of the biggest pricing drops have occurred recently, with the national average for regular unleaded falling 18 cents from last month. Even diesel prices have dropped about 18 cents when compared with prices during the same time last year.

As you might imagine, the drop in fuel prices is helping get people back to new-vehicle dealerships (of course, some of the big incentives on select full-size pickup trucks doesn't hurt either). But the lower gasoline costs have made it more difficult for alternative-fuel vehicles (and even hybrid cars) to sell as quickly as they did when fuel prices climbed closer to $5 a gallon.

According to Automotive News, some are worried that if fuel prices stay as low as they are now, manufacturers will be in the awkward position of making higher mpg pickup trucks (or lower cost alternative-fuel vehicles like the Ford, Ram and GM heavy-duty pickups that use compressed natural gas) to comply with more stringent governmental fuel-economy requirements, but they won't be able to sell them without significant incentives. Of course, all that could change with higher crude oil prices.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), according to some governmental officials, prices are likely to stay low for at least another year, barring any major refinery or geopolitical issues. All this should be good news (meaning plenty of opportunities to save money one way or another) for buyers looking for a full-size pickup truck with a V-8, V-6 or even CNG. Some of the biggest pickup sales months happen in the last three months of the year, so look for your local dealer to be ready to make you a strong deal.

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CNG only worked because of government subsidies.

Gas prices will need to be $10 per gallon before it's viable.

I feel that CAFE is spot on. It has been a great catalyst to the truck market.

Who is benefited most by higher FE? Not the consumer because it always comes at a cost.

I am beginnig to realize that Big Al has been right, diesel and vans are really the way forward.

The Ecoboost is a good engine, but what does it do mostly? It just stirs up fights, thus the name Egoboost.

I have been more and more disillusioned with Ford. I feel my next truck may be a GMC.

Putin has threatened to cut natural gas to the EU. The US has been increasing production. Less domestic demand and increased reserves means Putin's threats are bark and no bite. The US Government probably likes the idea of having the reserves to counter any Russian threat but it does mess up domestic "green" plans. It is hard to sell alternative fuel/power sources as the price of oil drops. ISIS and continued Middle East instability means that the price of oil could climb at any time.

The Saudi's have stated they will pump and pump to maintain market share. I've read on of the aims is to shut down the more expensive US shale oil.

I don't know how this will affect the Canadian tar sands as it is costly to process (energy).

"Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer, took aim at the problem of falling prices when it decided to defend its market share by cutting prices instead of production. Traders have speculated the Saudis intention was to hurt any number of rivals including Russia, Iran or the U.S. shale oil industry."


Here the increasing use of diesel Pickups have help kill LPG not CNG Conversions.
Also a conversion takes up a lot more space, than a normal diesel or petrol tank

@Big Al--The Saudi's have for the most part broken away from OPEC. Their goal is to discourage competition, but the question is for how long are they going to keep up the high production? Cheap oil will not last, this has happened before in the late 90's with the Saudi's doing the same thing. It is a mistake to base your vehicle purchase on the current market for oil--it will not last.

Cool, let the Saudi's pump their wells dry. We'll still have plenty and have no use for them anymore. The only ally we will have in the middle east will be Israel and will save us trillions not protecting anyone else.

It's not just CNG. It's going to kill the new hydrogen powered cars also.

If they came up with the fueling stations needed. I would gladly go with hydrogen.

Hydrogen can be produced completely green through Hydrolysis using green ways to produce electricity with wind, waves, tides, and Dams. Each one of those are located next to a source of water. Hydrogen has much more energy that the other fuels and is cheaper than gasoline per mile.

It's the perfect fuel. but no one will continue to invest in it with fuel prices going down.

It's a shame. The hydrogen car was just released to the market this year. And now it's as good as gone.

The Bakken can profitably produce down to 55 dollars/barrel right now.. New wells are being drilled from drilling islands. This will further reduce production costs.

They are producing up to 14 wells per island. Two miles down and two miles laterally. Pretty amazing stuff.

The Bakken is also a continuous oil basin. In other words there is a oil everywhere in the Basin. It is only the amount of flow in particular areas that differs. They are disappointed with wells that don't initially flow 1000 barrel/day in a field that has produced wells up to 4500 barrels/day. That is why they have gone from far down in the list of oil producing states to the 2 largest producing state in about 5 years.

1000 barrels/day/well from a drill island making 10 wells is 10,000 barrels a day of flow. They won't abandon the Bakken for a long time.

Where the hell do you buy CNG or LPG? I have never seen a pump here in the southeast or on the east coast. They must all be in the southwest.

They have a few CNG stations in New Mexico--but the only CNG vehicles I have ever seen are government owned.

I saw two Chevy HD2500 pickups fueling up at a natural fuel station today in Pennsylvania. They were work trucks from the gas fields. They were paying $1.99 a gallon, still a good deal compared to gasoline.

75 million American families have natural gas available to their homes. Home compressor units are available, so you don't have to go anywhere to fill up other than your garage. Plus, it's probably the cheapest fuel available to run your vehicle. Problem is the conversion costs.

@Jeff S - It turns out, high fuel prices don't affect big pickup sales much. Midsize pickup sales suffer most, as they're more in the lifestyle category.

But when fuel prices surge up, it's also a gamble buying a CNG or hybrid of some sort, on the expectation fuel prices will stay high.

@Tom - We're too much in bed with the Saudis and other OPEC nations. We don't so much need their oil, but we need a Middle East presence, meaning military bases.

And it keeps them using the USDollar for ALL their oil transactions, regardless what country is buying. Without this, USDollar would crash immediately. No doubt about.

We need them as much as they need us.

I need my truck for the power to haul and tow, I need the heavy weight and the 4x4 to run unplowed roads in the winter.
I understand pickups are hard on gas, over the years I have adapted to accept the high fuel prices.
I make enough money now that I can afford $100 + fill-ups every week. I wasn't always successful but when I used to worry that I couldn't afford that forced me to be more successful, I struggled and worked harder just so I can afford to pay for gas.
High gas prices made me a success.

Falling gas prices are also making diesel hardware costs and fuel/def prices a tough sell for a half-ton and mid-size. Ford was right. EcoBoost makes more sense.

CNG makes CNG a difficult sell. No infrastructure, increased vehicle weight, occupies valuable storage space, poor fuel economy, etc.

The truth is, CNG prices will track gasoline prices as CNG demand increases. It's all smoke and mirrors and T Boone Pickens has probably spent hundreds of millions banking on it.

@Denver Mike--My point on the fuel prices is that people should not be lulled into thinking that fuel prices will continue to go down and then buy a vehicle based on cheap gas. If you want to buy a large truck fine, but then don't be surprised and upset when gasoline prices go up. As for the Saudis yes we need them not as much for oil as an ally in the Middle East. As long as we support Israel and pledge to defend them then yes we are in the Middle East.

Ecoboost isn't the fuel economy answer for the future. It is an inexpensive, stop-gap giving the impression of fuel economy. We've all seen Ecoboost user complaints of poor fuel economy and that's not inline with future government goals of aggressive MPG improvements.

@Denver Mike--It also takes time for manufacturers to adjust their production from a less efficient vehicle to a more efficient one although it is less time than during the 73 Arab Oil Embargo and the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979. I was in college during the 73 Embargo and the manufacturers were caught with short supplies of fuel efficient cars and lots of full size cars and trucks that they couldn't give away. People were panicking and trading in 2 and 3 year old cars for smaller cars even if they only got $500 for a car that they paid 6k to 12K a few years before. One of my professors had a 2 year old Pontiac Grand Safari wagon with everything on it and they offered him $500--which he decided to keep and store in his barn and bought the more fuel efficient car. He was smart because less than a year later it was all over. Buy what best suits your needs but be prepared for anything to happen.

At the time I had my parent's 64 Impala 9 passenger wagon which I kept a full tank of gas in so that I could go home. There was gas allocation based on the last digit of your license plate--even digits fill up on even days and odd digits fill up on odd days. I bought a bicycle for riding around and for short trips.

Of course, we all realize that it's because of so many alternative fuels becoming more readily available that gasoline and diesel prices are falling here in the States--the oil companies want to keep us addicted to THEIR product to the exclusion of all others. Why are they working so hard to study alternative fuels and technologies? To try and patent them BEFORE anyone else can and either block those technologies or license them for their own profit.

"Ecoboost isn't the fuel economy answer for the future. It is an inexpensive, stop-gap giving the impression of fuel economy. We've all seen Ecoboost user complaints of poor fuel economy and that's not inline with future government goals of aggressive MPG improvements."

EcoBoost CAN be the fuel economy answer--but only if the driver stays out of the throttle unless absolutely necessary. It's little different from when people bragged of having two-barrel and four-barrel carburators; as long as you kept your foot off the floor, you did see fuel savings. The problem is, the average American driver can't discipline themselves to drive in a reasonable and fuel-efficient manner and as such we are being forced to accept ever-smaller engines simply to force more economical driving habits. Unfortunately, the turbo boost gives that kick in the rear that so many drivers love and that's WHY they report such abysmal economy numbers.

Now, I'll grant that some few of the hundreds of millions of drivers on the roads really NEED big power, whether it be for carrying or pulling large loads one way or another, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of use can get by just fine driving at or near the posted speed limits which means that 300, 400 and more horsepower with ridiculous torque is simply not necessary for the majority of us. It's nice to have in an emergency or for that once-in-a-decade move and that's why the turbo-boost is added to these engines today, but for everyday driving you should be cruising at a speed that keeps you out of that turbo--around 2,000 rpm or less. Heck, I can easily achieve 21+mpg in an '08 Jeep Wrangler which doesn't even have the Pentastar engine in it, much less a turbo, which still exceeds the economy of most trucks prior to 2012. My average mixed driving comes close to 20mpg and even exceeds it on occasion while my true in-town driving runs just shy of 18mpg (ok, if it's an extended period of stop-and-go traffic it falls more drastically but still exceeds the EPA rating).

However, you are right that turbo boost is a stop-gap. If people really want power and performance, they need to support the all-electric path and push for better battery technologies. Even hybrids are a compromise and most hybrids are a very poor compromise.

@Jeff S - I doubt many are brain dead enough to buy a big thirsty vehicle just because fuel prices are low. If so, let them learn the hard way.

And it's no reason to panic when prices surge sky high.

I figure most consumers buying less than 20 mpg 'average' vehicles (as their only car) don't have long commutes. Or they can more that afford it, if they do.

@Denver Mike--Here is a link for you to read since you don't believe me.


@RoadWhale--Agree with everything you stated. The way you drive is a lot of what determines what you get in mpg's. Light on the gas and anticipating stops. When the turbo kicks in the mpg's go down. The turbo is there when you need it but you should not need it most of the time.

Gas prices have only been down for a week and a half. No telling how long it'll last but I won't bet it will continue to 2015.

Looks like the fake posters are still at it.

We should not grow comfortable with low gas prices and keep up the push to convert our fuel of the future to CNG. These low prices will not last.

@Jeff S - That's a good article and there's no doubt there's a slight shift to bigger vehicles with dropping fuel prices.

But it doesn't really say consumer of big thirsty vehicles can't afford the extra $300 approx annually, typical owners would spend on fuel when fuel prices surge upward. Likely they can afford it. That's less than 1% of their take home pay, or they bought more truck that they can afford anyway.

And it assumes owners of big thirsties don't cut back on driving when fuel prices rise. It expects 12K annual miles regardless.

It's my belief consumers aren't as brain dead as some assume.

The tone and substance of these comments is approaching the kind of pennypinching we normally will make fun of, i.e., the guy who counts how many sheets of toilet paper needed to service his needs after reading the sports page in the morning.

The obsession with fuel mileage makes me crazy. There are many ways to save money, and many of them have bigger impact than fussing over FE and what kind of trucks we buy.

Live! Enjoy life. Do a burnout!

@Denver Mike--I have meet enough people that would do something stupid like buy a vehicle that they cannot afford to keep up. Hopefully most people wouldn't but then never overestimate the average person's intelligence. I would never get rid of a vehicle because of gas mileage but if I am buying a new vehicle anyway I will look at fuel economy along with other factors. You seldom will come out a head by getting rid of a perfectly good vehicle to save on gas--the dealer will always come out ahead (the house always wins).

@Denver Mike--If someone is going to buy a full size truck anyway then the fuel economy is not the relevant and the time to buy is now.

@papa jim--I know some people who would count the number of toilet paper sheets that they use.

I agree that few would sell a truck they use all the time just because the fuel prices rise--well, until those prices approach $4.50-$5.00 per gallon. The last time gas prices rose to near that point, used car lots around me were suddenly full of fairly late-model full size trucks and SUVs. They didn't start selling again until fuel prices fell back into the $3.50 range.

On the other hand, if I were buying new, I flat would NOT buy a truck--any truck--that got less EPA-rated mileage than my Jeep Wrangler's measured mileage of 24-25mpg highway. I simply don't need a truck so big that it's fighting more wind drag than it is weight while carrying my load. My heaviest load so far fell in between 500-700 pounds but still took up the whole of an 8' full-sized bed. And for those of you who say, "get a trailer", forget it; my HOA won't allow a trailer in my yard visible from any aspect of my property. At least I can park a pickup truck there.

On, and One More Thing: Yesterday I saw a home repair contractor that has abandoned his pickup truck. He now drives an economy sedan with a small, enclosed utility trailer instead simply because he gets far better fuel mileage and can squeeze that combo into places he couldn't fit his truck. In other words, Bigger is not Better for those who don't really need the size and power. Bring back the SMALL trucks!


My Silverado rolled the 60k miles threshold today and NOTHING HAPPENED. It just kept rollin' on.

If I was driving a Ford, (Nissan and Toyota?) the drivetrain warranty would have died, but the Chevy kept a rollin'.

Got another 39k plus change before the drivetrain warranty craps out. By then, who knows, maybe I'll have a new Ram or a GMC or a Chevy Colorado another 100 thousand mile warranty.


In the event of a real emergency, your civil defense systems would have directed you to a car lot near you. That is all!

@papa jim, Do you think gas prices will fall to $2.50 or less and stay there? If the Republicans take the Senate and pass an energy bill that opens up drilling everywhere, will Obama sign it?

To add onto my post I want drilling and Keystone pipeline and pipelines opening up all over the country.

@Greg--I think the oil prices are less about opening up more fields in the US and more about how far the Saudi's will go with their increased production. Also World demand has gone down due to economic woes in Europe and a slow down in China and India.

@Jeff and Greg

While I support getting government out of the way, I don't think that current global markets are buying enough crude (and refined products) that it would make a huge difference.

Even if the limits were lifted, it would take years to bring on the additional infrastructure and shipping resources to handle it, in a way sufficient to really affect world markets. Same is true of most major commodities, whether your talking about crude oil, natural gas, orange juice concentrate or precious metals.

The major gremlin in fuel prices continues to be the instability of the various units of currency around the world.

Whether it's the Euro or the dollar, lack of confidence in a particular medium of exchange will drive investor dollars into hard assets such as real estate, crude oil, collectables, art, etc.

By all means, let's get the government out of the way, but I'm not sure how long it would take for new drilling to affect pump price for gasoline.

Long term, definitely. Short term, the currency is the bigger issue.

What Contributes to Gas Prices and Solutions to Help


Government Policies That Inhibit Markets

The most effective response to variations in energy prices is simply to allow markets to work. Government restrictions, regulations, and attempts to force technologies into the market impede the free market’s efficacy. To help American fuel consumers, Congress and the Administration should:
■Lift the drilling bans and approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Congress should lift the ban on exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and should conduct more lease sales off Alaska’s coasts. Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is another abundant source of oil, with an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil beneath a few thousand acres. Furthermore, if President Barack Obama had approved the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline when the Department of State first concluded that the pipeline was environmentally safe, the U.S. would have begun importing up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries as early as 2013.[13] While predicting the exact impact of increased imports of Canadian oil on gasoline prices is difficult, increased domestic production would clearly have substantially benefited the U.S. economy. According to Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, aggressive domestic production would yield significant economic benefits and put downward pressure on prices.[14]
■Repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). More commonly known as the ethanol mandate, the RFS mandates that refineries blend increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline each year, reaching 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Congressional Budget Office recently published a report showing the RFS will increase gas prices by 13 cents to 26 cents per gallon as soon as 2017.[15] Multiple federal agency and government-backed studies demonstrate the RFS has harmed Americans, driving up fuel and food prices.[16]
■Lift the ban on crude oil exports. Removing government restrictions on crude oil exports would decrease gas prices and grow the American economy by creating more opportunities to produce and sell oil and a more efficient distribution system for refining it. A recent IHS study projects even greater benefits, finding that removing the ban would lower gasoline prices by 8 cents per gallon, saving motorists $265 billion over 15 years and adding nearly 1 million jobs by 2018.[17]
■Prohibit greenhouse gas and Tier 3 regulations. The Department of the Interior has already suspended oil and gas leases because of their alleged impact on climate change, and refineries are a coming target of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its greenhouse gas regulations will block and increase the cost of energy production, and producers will pass those costs on to consumers. Yet the regulations will have no meaningful impact on the climate. The EPA has also finalized Tier 3 gas regulations to lower the amount of sulfur in gasoline beginning in 2017. More stringent sulfur regulations could add 6 cents to 9 cents per gallon to the cost of manufacturing gasoline, and the EPA has acknowledged the more stringent regulation will produce no measurable improvement in air quality.[18]
■Repeal the Jones Act. Signed into law almost a century ago, the Jones Act mandates that any goods shipped by water between two points in the United States must be transported on a U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged vessel with a crew that is at least 75 percent American. By preventing foreign competition, the Jones Act significantly increases domestic maritime shipping prices, driving up costs for American businesses and consumers. A February 2014 International Energy Agency report estimates that repealing the Jones Act would reduce gasoline prices by 15 cents per gallon.[19] The Jones Act creates an unnecessary and expensive hurdle for shipping crude oil from coast to coast and Congress should repeal it.

Free-Market Reforms Will Combat High Gas Prices

High gas prices hurt consumers not only at the pump but also by raising the cost of all goods and services that depend on transportation. Higher prices mean families buy fewer goods and services, slowing economic growth and job creation. Congress should allow the market to determine prices by implementing the free-market reforms to improve the market’s ability to respond.
—Nicolas D. Loris is Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, of the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.

@Dr Gas,

Heritage research is almost always spot on, but my point is this:

If current shipments of crude oil equal X, and the changes that Heritage proposes result in a market where shipments equal X plus 2 percent, how much would prices come down on a long term basis?

In my modest opinion, not much.

Instead the greater importance of freer markets in energy is that it will foster TRUE energy innovation, not the bogus Solyndra sorts of shovel ready shell games that the current administration dumped vast money into. Solyndra was a waste of money (that we borrowed) but that sort of thing also retards genuine investment and innovation.

@papa jim--Increased drilling and production will not help unless refinery capacity is expanded. There has not been a major refinery built in the USA since the mid 1970's. Also below a certain price it does not pay to produce oil. Even with today's recovery methods it is still expensive to drill for oil. I worked in the oil and gas industry in the late 70's thru the 80's and there is a lot more to oil production than most people think. We either have to expand refinery capacity in the US or build mega refineries in other countries where there are less restrictions and import refined product. As a country we are at about max refinery capacity with very little room to refine more product. Many older and smaller refineries have been shut down. That is why when there is a major hurricane or bad weather it effects the price of gas because many of the refineries are located along the Gulf Coast or in Chicago. Doesn't take much to interrupt the flow of refined products.

@Papa Jim: While Solyndra was a failure in itself, the overall concept is not, nor will it be. Alternative energy sources are mandatory for the survival of mankind on this world, whether you like it or not. Oil is a finite resource. Coal is a finite resource. If we don't find alternative energy sources mankind as a society will be forced back to the iron age. We who are alive today will probably not see that day, but just keep in mind how far we've come in a mere 300 years and try to imagine the amount of change possible in the next 300--IF we have the energy to make those advancements.

Personally, any energy source that depends on a finite amount of fuel is doomed to fail in time. Natural gas is no different. If we are to have electricity for light, heat, transportation and exploration, we need effectively unlimited sources such as wind, tidal and solar technologies. They need to be researched and studied to the level that the remaining finite fuels can be saved for things more important than just running down to the grocery store.


you obviously did not read my post.

I spoke about getting government out of the way. Made no comment whatever about the technology that the former Solyndra was attempting to create.

I don't have a preference for one fuel type over another--I say let the public buy whatever it wants. Don't want the government dictating what kind of car or what kind of energy I can buy.

Not their job, man!

In order to avert the demise of the CNG POV the gas companies need to drop the price at least a dollar a gallon. Questar in Utah pay attention! I own 3 CNG vehicles and at the present gasoline prices there is no need to go through the extra hassle at the CNG pump. Help!

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