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Natural gas boom not in eastern Idaho

Some trucking companies want to make the switch from diesel to natural gas. The New York Times reports that United Parcel Service plans to announce the expansion of its fleet running on liquified natural gas, or LNG, by 2014.

Many of the truck companies I spoke with said they would like to make the switch, but there are few LNG stations in eastern Idaho. In Bonneville County, construction on a LNG gas station is underway on Overland Drive. Construction workers said they aren’t sure when the project will be complete.

Idaho trucker Charles Hampton spends an average of $400-$500 a day on diesel gas, but doesn’t think companies should make the switch because natural gas vehicles can cost almost twice as much as trucks.

“The cost to switch over, they couldn’t afford it. You can add a tank, but what are you going to do with the aluminum tanks? You can’t recycle them,” he said.

But incentives provided by the federal government may change some minds. It’s offering tax credits and grants for installing natural gas fuel stations and using vehicles fueled by natural gas.

Equipment shop foreman David Nelson from the city of Idaho Falls said a lack of stations caused the city to stop using their bi-fuel cars.

“Cost was positive at least to begin. When we got to the end, we were paying as much for CNG as for regular unleaded,” he said.

The city’s vehicles need compressed natural gas, whereas the liquified version is the natural form when burned. The city has seven bi-fuel vehicles right now, but they only run on unleaded fuel. Nelson said there is a chance the city will make the switch back, but it all comes down to cost.

The Energy Department said as of May 2012 only 53 LNG fueling stations are in the U.S. More than two-thirds of them are in California.

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