Follow us as we drive a natural gas-powered Hummer — the supposedly “dirtiest vehicle of them all” — across the country to demonstrate first-hand that Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) really are cleaner for the environment, cheaper to run and maintain, and a lot more fun!
Parked at Garfield Circle within eyeshot of the US Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, a Humvee sporting the slogan, “Cleaner, Cheaper And a Lot More Fun!” wasn’t attracting much attention despite the enthusiasm of its owners, Murry and Cindy Gerber, for the cause it represents.
“Cindy and I are trying to take the vision to another level,” Murry Gerber said of his push to get the majority of Americans driving natural gas vehicles. “We are trying to take the vision beyond vehicle fleets and return to base vehicles. Everybody thinks we are nuts, but I don’t think we are nuts. You have to start with the end in mind. For us, the end in mind is all Americans can take advantage of natural gas for driving.”
Before he became an outspoken advocate for NGVs, Gerber was the chairman of EQT, a Pittsburgh-based utility company that is also active in developing Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas reserves. Since his retirement last year, he has been focused on his NGV campaign — which has taken root as gasoline prices have spiked above $4/gallon.
The Gerbers began a cross-country promotional tour in Santa Monica, California, on April 28, and will wrap it up this week in New York City. Along the way, they talked up the value of NGV passenger cars. They also gave a dozen schools $2,500 grants to support science education.
Cindy Gerber observed that at several stops the couple learned that local school districts and taxi companies were among the first to invest in NGVs. “People started to see that having the school buses or the taxis or municipal buses using natural gas made sense,” she said.
Murry Gerber said he supports the NAT GAS Act of 2011, which would create five-year tax incentives for companies that buy NGVs and build refueling stations (GD 4/7). The bill is intended to encourage companies and municipalities to use natural gas to power their vehicle fleets, but the Gerbers believe that ultimately the scope should be much broader.
He is driving a Humvee H3T powered by compressed natural gas. The vehicle isn’t made any more, but he said he and Cindy selected it because “it is the quintessential ‘dirty’ car that is cleaner than a smart car.”
His wife created the accompanying slogan, he said, because “with natural gas, you can drive what you want and feel good about it.”
Based on the research he’s done, the country needs at least 1,000 more NGV fueling stations to realize his vision of an NGV nation. “That would get people excited enough about the difference in price to start demanding more NGVs,” he predicted. “That demand will accentuate more fueling stations.”
He noted that fueling stations are scarce in rural areas. It’s 350 miles between stations at Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Midland, Texas, and another 325 miles to the next station at Fort Worth.
In those areas, Gerber said a “utility model” — in which local distribution companies would build and operating fueling stations — might be the best way to go.
The cost of a station and its operations could be a part of the utility’s rate base, which would be charged to urban, suburban and rural customers alike. “I don’t want to pre-suppose that,” he said. “But even if we did that, it would mean an increase in people’s natural gas bills of about $10 year. These stations aren’t that expensive to build.”
“Just like in the old days, we didn’t have telephones in rural areas, or electricity,” he continued. “There has to be some subsidy from the urban to the rural. The logic for it would be urban users of natural gas vehicles could be able to go across their state and save the money associated with using natural gas. That is the quid pro quo.”
— Rodney White
So, we figured everyone would want to know the final tally on fuel efficiency, fuel cost per mile and total miles driven for the Hummer Trek. So here goes.
Including the trip back home from New York, for us that means Pittsburgh, we logged 3917 miles.
Total fuel expenditures were: $507
Total fuel efficiency: Just below 13 miles per gge
Total cost per mile: 12.9 cents
Estimated cost per Gallon Gasoline Equivalent: $1.68
The final number increased a bit from the trip average as cost of fueling in Staten Island was a bit high and fuel efficiency deteriorated somewhat coming westward due to high winds and the mountainous terrain. Of course, we had headwinds going east through Midland that were unexpected, but fuel costs in the west were much lower; as low as $.99/gallon in Oklahoma City.
Nevertheless, fuel costs for this trip were staggeringly low; enough so that if natural gas was the fuel of choice for Americans and American commerce, the debate raging now about whether to measure consumer inflation by “core” number (excluding food and energy) or actual inflation (inclusive of both) would be a mute point.
Period to period savings in fuel costs, presuming full conversion to natural gas fuel, would be a “help” to inflation that would offset substantially increases in other commodity costs.
NGV’s. Cleaner, Cheaper, A Lot More Fun and an inflation hedge soon (hopefully, with some political leadership) available to ALL.
So, Cindy and I are in DC, admiring the greatest of all monuments to our first President; noting that funny demarcation line about one quarter of the way up where the stone changes color. We remember the color change is due to the 20 year building hiatus which became reflected in the difference in stone color then available from the source quarry when construction continued. There was no getting back the matching stone; it having long been previously mined and sold; poetically, the hiatus caused “a doodle that could not be undid”. And so it is… the perfect monument… ever so slightly tainted by imperfection.
Choosing sources of energy is not perfect. From the time man rubbed two sticks together, the fights have raged about what should or shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to, among other things; keep warm, cook, build stuff, run machines, move quickly from place to place and win wars (see World War II), etc etc etc. On balance we’ve managed pretty well with those decisions in the US and remained pretty darn strong. On energy we didn’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. BUT, we’re up against the wall now. We MUST choose affirmatively; and make energy choices that are not ethereal, ARE available now, and don’t depend on dozens of future Nobel Prizes to work. Abdicating the responsibility to choose assures our legacy; a future where our children rely on benevolent foreign countries for their energy needs. Adipose eventuality (Fat Chance).
With natural gas, and NGV’s, we think the choice we make to drive with this stuff and substantively contribute to eliminating our energy dependency far exceeds the manageable risks of responsible extraction and delivery. Period.
NGV’s; like life, not perfect; BUT Cleaner, Cheaper and a Lot More Fun… and here today.