The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) said Monday it plans to conduct a public forum on electric (EV) and natural gas vehicles (NGV) to help the five-member PUC and other state agencies determine how they can best foster stepped up investment in alternative fuel vehicles.

A forum open to the general public will be held May 31 at Drexel University in Philadelphia, including the heads of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation, along with PUC commissioners.

Greatly increased domestic production is driving the renewed interest in natural gas as a transportation fuel, along with global climate change concerns which are pushing the whole alternative fuel sector. The move toward the alternatives for transportation “creates numerous issues and questions, many of which impact the PUC’s core function,” a PUC spokesperson said.

Separately, the Union of Concerned Scientists on Monday released a report looking at the fact that the carbon footprint of EVs varies greatly depending on the source of the electricity used. Identical EVs in Colorado and California, for example, would have significantly different attributable emissions, with the California EV’s emissions being much lower due to the predominance of gas-fired generation in that state — as opposed to Colorado’s mix of coal- and gas-fired power — according to the report.

The report’s “well-to-wheels analysis,” shows clearly that EVs in states where most electricity comes from gas-fired, nuclear, hydroelectric and renewable sources will have the lowest carbon footprints.

“Domestic natural gas production continues to grow,” said Pennsylvania PUC Chairman Robert Powelson, noting that the Marcellus Shale formation has made Pennsylvania a “hot bed” of activity focused on the commodity. “The corresponding drop in electric generation prices coupled with the appreciation of oil prices has clarified the need for the PUC to explore policies and regulatory frameworks that can support investments in NGVs and EVs.”

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