It seems we've been down this road before. Another "oil crisis" takes control of our economic destiny. This time, however, it goes beyond the realm of economics. We're now risking American lives to protect our petroleum interests in the Middle East. It is no longer a question of finding alternatives, but of utilizing those that are readily available to us.
One such alternative is compressed natural gas. While many associate natural gas with home heating and cooking, it is fast becoming an economically smart and environmentally safe alternative to gasoline. It is smart because CNG costs about 70-80 cents per gallon equivalent of gasoline.
Moreover, it has the equivalent octane rating of 130, yet contains no particulates, which translates into nearly three times the engine life we're currently accustomed to.
From an environmental perspective, CNG produces far fewer smog- and cancer-causing emissions. Thus, it could be an instrumental force in cleaning up the air we breathe.
CNG vehicles are as safe as gasoline vehicles. In test crashes over 50 miles per hour, CNG tanks showed little or no damage. Bonfire and dynamite tests have further proven that CNG cylinders are durable and safe.
Any standard gasoline engine can run on CNG. The present cost of converting a vehicle is around $2,500. For large vehicle fleets with considerable annual mileage, this cost would be recovered quickly. As the demand for this type of vehicle grows, it will become economically smart for individual vehicle owners to operate CNG vehicles as well.
I have introduced a resolution in the Erie County Legislature calling for the conversion of the county vehicle fleet to CNG as a primary energy source, with the ultimate goal of having 95 percent of the fleet converted by 1995.
This would represent a tremendous savings to the county taxpayer and set an example that, hopefully, other large vehicle fleet owners will follow.
WILLIAM A. PAULY
Erie County Legislator
14th District, Amherst