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Natural Gas, Pollution, and Our Environment

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Natural Gas, Pollution, and Our Environment

In today's society there is a great need for environmental protection. Things that happened during our parents and grandparents age have caused a great concern for our ozone, our air, and our environment. You constantly hear about the many sources of pollution, but we hardly ever hear about the solutions. In this paper I will present one possible solution to the air pollution problem that has been caused by too many automobile emissions being released into the air. This possible solution deals with switching from diesel gas, to fuel trucks and bus fleets, to natural gas. I will discuss how this switch would assist in the reduction of air pollution and in this way help the environment.

There are many types of pollution such as: smog, acid rain, and greenhouse gas emissions. The causes of these pollutants include carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and nitrogen oxide, as well as various sulfur compounds. Pollutants are released into the air for several reasons. One reason is that diesel fuel does not burn as cleanly as natural gas. These pollutants are released into the atmosphere by the burning of the fuel. Automobiles are responsible for half of the world's pollution problem due to their use of these fuels. There have been 41 different toxic elements in diesel exhaust identified by the State of California. Of these toxins, about half are recognized or considered to be carcinogens.

Due to the problem that has been described up to now, there are several environmental laws that have been enacted to help control and reduce air pollution. The major law in this area would have to be the Clean Air Act of 1970. This was the highest point in history regarding air pollution. It was the largest law to be past regarding air pollution up to that point. Another legislative decision that has had a huge impact is the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. A few of the major points amended include: classifying areas that exceed the national standard for pollution, to intensify automobile emission standards and require new fuels in the most polluted areas, beginning a new program aimed at technology-based principles, to phase out the most ozone harmful chemicals, and giving the EPA power to fine administrative penalties. Another law that has been very helpful is the Energy Policy Act of 1992. This Act helps fight pollution by requiring the use of alternative fuels in running fleets in cities with populations of 250,000 or more as of 1980. It also targets reducing the American reliance on foreign countries for our fuel needs. All three of these acts have shown that government and society are trying to reduce pollution.

Due to increasing society awareness regarding pollution, more and more alternatives and solutions are being investigated and developed in our quest to reduce environmental pollution during this current age. Since emissions discharged from automobiles have become a front runner in the pollution arena, it is only natural that much of the research and investigations have been centered on alternative fueling solutions. Natural gas seems to be the number one alternative fuel at this time. There has been a great deal of research done regarding the positive and negative effects in relation to its use. It has been tested against many different fuels that are currently used in this country. The evidence that has been found to support the use of natural gas has been overwhelming. The most evident advantages are as follows:

1. Economic Advantages:

* The price of natural gas per equivalent gallon of gasoline would be approximately $0.90 to $1.30. Unleaded gasoline prices are currently well above this prediction all over the country.

2. Safe Transportation Fuel:

* One reason it is safer to transport is that natural gas will not spill to the ground and create pools of explosive gasoline. Natural gas will flow into the air and disappear into the atmosphere.

* Another safer transportation factor would have to be that natural gas will not burn at temperatures less than 1,200 degrees. Gasoline on the other hand will ignite at a mere 600 degrees. According to a survey conducted by the American Gas Association, this will help in reducing deaths caused by automobiles catching on fire during an auto accident.

3. Safety Advantages:

* Natural gas is not toxic and cannot be ingested.

* Natural gas is not a carcinogenic substance.

* Natural gas is not corrosive.

All of the above mentioned factors make it seem apparent that natural gas is the best option at this point in time. But are there any known disadvantages of natural gas? The only disadvantage that I was able to locate would be the start up costs. It will be much more expensive in the beginning to use natural gas. The cost is not because the gas is more expensive, it is because there will have to be modifications made to gas stations, bus depot fueling stations, and of course, modifications to our automobiles. A typical natural gas bus would cost between $30,000 and $50,000 more than a diesel fueled bus. This means that instead of spending approximately $270,000 per bus, we would be spending closer to $320,000 per bus. It would also cost between $950,000 to $5,000,000 to build new refueling stations, and between $320,000 and $15,000,000 for depot modifications.



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