Increasing the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) could be best accomplished by using the federal trust funds established in the wake of the Volkswagen (VW) settlement, in which the automaker was directed to pay for state efforts to lower vehicle emissions, the American Gas Association (AGA) said Tuesday.
AGA, at the start of a nationwide two-week industry road rally, advocated that the NGV industry go after some of the $2.9 billion available to settle the federal case against VW for selling diesel-fueled vehicles that were not compliant with the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Under the settlement, VW is to fund the Environmental Mitigation Trust, established to provide states with money to reduce excess nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions through vehicle purchases and repowering; benefit residents in areas of greatest need (urban and industrial); and replace diesel equipment with “cleaner alternatives,” such as NGVs.
"NGVs are the best way to advance the goals of the VW settlement in a way that delivers the most emission reductions, in the most cost-effective manner," said an AGA spokesperson.
The industry road rally, which kicked off Monday, is an 18-stop, 4,825-mile caravan of NGVs traveling from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. "From Sea-to-Shining-Sea” is the second annual road rally to promote natural gas use in transportation.
In the port area of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Monday where the rally began, California officials stressed the role of NGVs in helping clean the air in local communities.
"The technology for near-zero-emission, heavy-duty NGVs exists today and can transform our diesel-dominated freight movement system," said South Gate, CA, City Councilman Jorge Morales. The road rally should "heighten awareness of the immediate need to push for cleaner trucks fueled by natural gas."
This year's rally is focusing on using natural gas in heavy-duty trucks. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach port areas alone, there are about 13,000 diesel-powered trucks in operation. About 80% of the Southern California region's smog is from the transportation sector, with heavy-duty trucks said to be the single largest contributor.
"The region's air quality could dramatically improve by deploying an increasing number of zero- and near-zero emission trucks," according to the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition. The Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area air ranks among the most polluted nationally, and "studies tell us that residents in the neighborhoods near the ports and transportation corridors have high rates of asthma and other upper-respiratory conditions," said Cudahy, CA, Councilman Cristian Markovich.
During the road rally, stops are planned in Albuquerque, Tulsa, Salisbury, NC, and Newport News, VA, with advocates offering educational demonstrations about how natural gas can be a used in transportation.