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Alternative Energy, what is the logical next step for America?

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Alternative Energy, what is the logical next step for America?

Join me as I write about the various forms of alternative energy and how I see them stacking up in today’s market place.

Green Fuel Ethanol / BioMass

Touted as the answer to our high gas prices, ethanol is an alcohol based fuel derived from fermenting and distilling crops that are broken down into simple sugars.Ethanol fuel is mainly produced in the US by a company called Archer Daniels Midland, an agricultural giant with years of experience and investment in the Ethanol industry. This industry is supported by Billions of approved tax dollars and the legal requirement that Oil Company MUST buys a percentage of Ethanol and mixes it into regular gas.Ethanol was touted as a cheaper form of fuel with an acceptable smaller amount of energy per gallon or BTU’s.The problem with Ethanol production or the issue is that ethanol production is supported by energy produced with Coal Power, which is the dirtiest form of energy. The question asked then is why is a clean fuel being hailed as such a wonder when it has to use the dirtiest form of energy production to produce it?The EPA has recently in the past few years had to tighten down restrictions on Ethanol plants due to the excessive spewing of chemicals that are dangerous to the environment and known to cause cancer in humans. Sadly the EPA since 2004 has Ethanol listed as a major source of Pollution. This has been pushed down into the bowls to be seen only by people driven to see testing results for alternative fuels production but the details are on the EPA web site.It is clear that in our search to move away from oil dependence and find new green fuels that we are polluting in new ways or at least other ways when it comes to production. So where do we stand when it comes to Ethanol? Does the subsidy really make sense to pay these companies billions to make a fuel that now on average costs $2.13 a gallon but without the subsidy would cost equal to gasoline and has less power and pollutes equal to if not greater when you factor in the coal power required to make it?This does not take into account the added cost put on Corn as a food source since a required amount of corn must be sold and used for production of Ethanol. Currently a bushel of corn is over $8 per bushel and a We have a problem on our hands and it is time we step up and truly move to an alternative form of Green Energy. Is it algae, fruit based ethanol, Biodiesel, CNG, Solar, Electric, Hydrogen (Cold Fusion), wind or just what is the next logical step for the US to take?

renewable-energy.png

Over the next few months I will attempt to review both renewable and non renewable energy!

conventional_renewable_energy_sources.gif

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Any type of fuel based on foodstuffs is patently stupid. This is even before the drought that is affecting farm yields here in the USA this year. Corn-based ethanol is stupid and the EPA should scrap the mandates that require it to be blended into our gasoline. If you want ethanol (read E85), then use something else that humans (and livestock) DO NOT consume. There are plenty of alternatives to corn. If ADM cannot adapt, that is their problem. Also, we should completely end all farm subsidies because they are a waste of money.

If it were cheap to convert all vehicles to natural gas, then it should be done. Or do we have to have all of our refineries shut down and/or on fire for that to happen? Current technology is designed to burn fossil fuels and nothing else. Short of a real game-changing technology, CNG is currently our best alternative.

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There are plenty of alternatives to corn, but many of them are still consumed by human. In the case of sugar, it is much more efficient to grow and produce fuel from than corn is. It's ok to use sugar even though humans and livestock still consume it.

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Interesting that some companies are focusing on using garbage and other sources for Ethanol productions rather than food stocks.

http://www.e-energymarket.com/news/single-news/article/bluefire-ethanol-ready-to-reach-ambitious-goals.html

Better yet is our own gov is showing that non-food based ethanol has a better energy rate and uses less supplied energy to create ethanol.

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/ethanol_fuel_basics.html

Time to kill the corn subsidies and let the farmers fight it out in a free market.

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in the interest of as many diversified energy sources as possible, i don't mind some corn ethanol....but i strongly disapprove of it being mandated in the fuel supply (like here in MN) and i am not huge on subsidizing corn if it means its for fuel.

ethanol blend is plain and simple an ag tax. i get 10-15% less mpg than the pure small engine gas, so i use more, that means i pay more for gas all around and it gums up my car. how is that good for me?

note: brazil thrives on sugar based ethanol.

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I don't mind ethanol because the MPG hit is purely an issue of our relatively low compression engines. If GM offered an E85 only engine, that engine could be smaller displacement and match the horsepower of a larger FlexFuel engine. Down in Brazil, GM's 1 liter engines that run sugar alcohol put in 12:1 compression ratios which is equal to what the V10 in the M5 uses. Compare that to the 9.5:1 compression ratio you get in a Flexfuel pushrod Impala. A 3900 tuned to a higher compression ratio and running only E85 could be a 275 - 290 hp motor, gear it accordingly and you wouldn't suffer a mpg hit compared to the Impala that we actually got.

Simply put, E85 would let you run a smaller engine without the performance hit and thus save you mpgs that way.

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Fusion energy is a while to go - possibly even 15 years down the road. Bathtub nuclear fission reactors are a good small scale solution. With next generation breeder reactors, fission energy can satisfy needs of America - if 65 to 80% of power comes from nuke - for the next 10,000 years. There is enough fissile material existing in this world.

The problem of nuke is perception. Despite of nuke is a safe energy source, just the thought scares many.

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There are plenty of alternatives to corn, but many of them are still consumed by human. In the case of sugar, it is much more efficient to grow and produce fuel from than corn is. It's ok to use sugar even though humans and livestock still consume it.

Well, its not like most humans can afford products made with sugar anymore... just HFCS... but seriously, ethanol from sugar has not happened here for one reason... it would make Cuba a major player in the US ethanol business. Unless Cuba's government changes radically, the US government will not play ball.

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The issue with many of the renewables is that they can be contributors, but most or all of them just aren't capable of being energy *solutions*, and the cost per energy unit of things like solar is still far too high to make commercial sense without heavy subsidies. Some folks need to get their heads out of the clouds & realize that some of these techs are going to have to remain in small scale use for another 20 years before they're even worth looking at when talking about national scale needs. Of course, it would be unwise to get all our power from only one or two sources anyway. That's the beauty of electricity - there's so many ways to make it! Nuclear is really borderline between non-renewable and renewable, especially if breeding and recycling are on the table.

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Yes, electricity can come from anywhere. We should ditch coal for nuclear right now, particularly generation IV plants. Transpotation is the real issue of course. Currently, there is no energy source out there with the portability and energy density of petroleum and its distillates. Solve that and you can deliver the USA out of fossil fuel dependence, perhaps forever.

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Well I disagree on the nukes. Germany is getting 50% of their electrical needs from solar during the summer months. I don't see why we can't do the same, we have a lot more sunny days than they do and a lot lower latitude as well.

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The issue with many of the renewables is that they can be contributors, but most or all of them just aren't capable of being energy *solutions*, and the cost per energy unit of things like solar is still far too high to make commercial sense without heavy subsidies. Some folks need to get their heads out of the clouds & realize that some of these techs are going to have to remain in small scale use for another 20 years before they're even worth looking at when talking about national scale needs. Of course, it would be unwise to get all our power from only one or two sources anyway. That's the beauty of electricity - there's so many ways to make it! Nuclear is really borderline between non-renewable and renewable, especially if breeding and recycling are on the table.

Yet electric cars are still a commuter car only. Forget the Rich toy that has a supposedly 300 mile range, the current electric cars cannot take you on a cross country trip. End of story. We are at least 50 to 100 years away from a storage source for electric that can get you 500 miles on a charge and how to rapid recharge in minutes.

They are a niche vehicle.

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Well I disagree on the nukes. Germany is getting 50% of their electrical needs from solar during the summer months. I don't see why we can't do the same, we have a lot more sunny days than they do and a lot lower latitude as well.

I would say that in certain latitudes solar is good for electricity generation (especially down here in FL, as well as TX/AZ/CA/NM). The problem is that solar power is not good enough for baseline power. Only fossil fuels, geothermal, nuclear and hydroelectric are good enough for baseline power to power entire cities. Solar can be good for an electric car, if said car has enough battery to handle long days without sunlight. (Also, can an electric car survive a Detroit winter?) How does Germany get its electricity during the dead of winter, when sunlight is relatively weak? Most likely nuclear power, which they should keep. Should more homes in the Sunbelt have solar power? Yes, because it makes economic sense, not because of some misplaced love of the environment.

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Again, Germany is supplying 50% of its electrical needs with solar, there is no reason we can't duplicate that. For the times the Sun isn't shining, you can used wide scale wind generation. For the amount of money we spent on Iraq and Afgahnistan, we could have deployed enough wind power in the US to power the US 3 times over. Triple electrical redundancy using conventional wind power. Now, there are newer developments called Wind Lenses that have already proven to double or triple output of a conventional turbine. and the equation changed in favor of wind even further.

The US mid-west is a wind power bonanza that makes the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia look like Jed Clampett's back yard.

I don't believe in "can't". We can power the US going forward and never build another conventional or nuclear electrical plant again while also decommissioning coal powered plants. We just need to get our priorities in order to do it. The State of New Jersey is already on this path as they have given up building new plants and are instead handing out grants to businesses and schools that put solar on the roof and sell back to the grid.

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Again, Germany is supplying 50% of its electrical needs with solar, there is no reason we can't duplicate that. For the times the Sun isn't shining, you can used wide scale wind generation. For the amount of money we spent on Iraq and Afgahnistan, we could have deployed enough wind power in the US to power the US 3 times over. Triple electrical redundancy using conventional wind power. Now, there are newer developments called Wind Lenses that have already proven to double or triple output of a conventional turbine. and the equation changed in favor of wind even further.

The US mid-west is a wind power bonanza that makes the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia look like Jed Clampett's back yard.

I don't believe in "can't". We can power the US going forward and never build another conventional or nuclear electrical plant again while also decommissioning coal powered plants. We just need to get our priorities in order to do it. The State of New Jersey is already on this path as they have given up building new plants and are instead handing out grants to businesses and schools that put solar on the roof and sell back to the grid.

I agree that before we build more plants that leave a destructive waste by product, we should invest in alternative green forms of power generation.

This thread could go very political, but the point being is the public needs to demand that our government stop overloading on overseas issues that really do not affect us and focus on rebuilding American infrastructure so that we can move towards dependance. This will require kicking the oil habit and there are many ways to kick that habit as I will cover in up coming alternative energy issues.

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The reality of it is that we will have to pay more to kick the oil and coal habit. In many areas you can buy up to green energy for just 2 cents more per kwh. You can buy blended green energy for less than that.

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What is the current price per kwh for solar?

For my area, I can get $0.0707/kwh for "100% clean energy" which is blended wind and hydro. With the employee discount I get through work, I can get "dirty energy" for $0.0679/kwh

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Following is the energy efficiency and range for cost of generation for respective sources. How can solar be that economical to sustain to be primary source of energy? Surface area is limited on this planet.

efficiencies.gif

energy_costs.gif

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PV costs are entirely based on the cost to produce the cells. Those prices have already plummeted and should continue to do so.

Roof surface area is a large untapped resource in this country.

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Again, Germany is supplying 50% of its electrical needs with solar, there is no reason we can't duplicate that. For the times the Sun isn't shining, you can used wide scale wind generation.

Can you post the source of this info? I was totally unable to find a source coming close to this. I'm wondering if Germany is outsourcing the location of its solar power. As it was not long ago, I saw stats showing that it would require covering the entire US with solar cells to provide even a quarter of our needs.

PV costs are entirely based on the cost to produce the cells. Those prices have already plummeted and should continue to do so.

Roof surface area is a large untapped resource in this country.

It might be, but right now, the people who put in roof-loads of PVs are losing their shirts, as the SRECs are not covering the cost of the improvements. Not only that, I have been investigating putting PVs on my roof for 10 years now, and the end user pricing has not come down at all. Granted, I have not repriced in the last year, but last I checked, Harbor Freight's kit had the best watts per dollar.

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Check out the Solar Kits Costco sells, the pricing has come down greatly and these kits I believe will speed up the use of Solar on homes.

http://www.costco.com/Common/Search.aspx?whse=BC&topnav=&search=solar&N=0&Ntt=solar&cm_re=1_en-_-Top_Left_Nav-_-Top_search&lang=en-US

Happy Shopping.

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Again, Germany is supplying 50% of its electrical needs with solar, there is no reason we can't duplicate that. For the times the Sun isn't shining, you can used wide scale wind generation.

Can you post the source of this info? I was totally unable to find a source coming close to this. I'm wondering if Germany is outsourcing the location of its solar power. As it was not long ago, I saw stats showing that it would require covering the entire US with solar cells to provide even a quarter of our needs.

This article was from May, but over the summer it became such a routine thing for Germany that media no longer bothered to report it. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/26/us-climate-germany-solar-idUSBRE84P0FI20120526

PV costs are entirely based on the cost to produce the cells. Those prices have already plummeted and should continue to do so.

Roof surface area is a large untapped resource in this country.

It might be, but right now, the people who put in roof-loads of PVs are losing their shirts, as the SRECs are not covering the cost of the improvements. Not only that, I have been investigating putting PVs on my roof for 10 years now, and the end user pricing has not come down at all. Granted, I have not repriced in the last year, but last I checked, Harbor Freight's kit had the best watts per dollar.

SRECs were never intended to cover the entire cost of the installation. The premise was that the owner would obtain long term financing and use the SRECs to help offset the cost of installation and they also got free energy for their home.

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    • By dfelt
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      Electric Highway Map Washington & Oregon
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      Click to Enlarge
      Map via WestCoastGreenHighway.com


      The layout of charging stations show that most are 20 to 30 miles apart with some being 50 to 60 miles apart which would require one to carefully and efficiently plan their driving. The one item that this map does not show is topography. The Pacific Northwest is a mountainous area that is also home to strong winds of which both can and do affect range of these autos.
      Fortunately many will find that the West Coast Green Highway site covers all of North America with alternative Fueling station locators. The Electric Highway is a part of a broader effort by the Department of Transportation for Washington, Oregon, and California to expand the use of Natural Gas, Biodiesel, Ethanol, and Hydrogen options along the 1,350 miles of I-5 from the US border with Canada to the US border with Mexico.
      In a drive for those that wish to help reduce greenhouse gas, clean up the air we breathe and give mother earth a break, the West Coast Green Highway project is a solid step in the right direction supporting many alternative transportation fueling options.

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      William Maley
      Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
      October 19, 2013
      Automakers are throwing a fair number of alternative fuels in a effort to improve mileage and emissions to see what sticks. General Motors announced this week that they are introducing Bi-Fuel Impala that will be available to fleets and consumers starting next summer. The company points out that the Impala is the only manufacturer-produced, full-size bi-fuel sedan in North America.
      The Bi-Fuel Impala can run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline. The vehicle features two tanks for the fuels and has a total range of 500 miles. The driver can change from CNG to gas and vice versa thanks to a button on the dash.
      We'll have more details on the 2015 Bi-Fuel Impala when we get closer to summer sale date.
      Source: General Motors
      William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
      Press Release is on Page 2
      Akerson Announces Bi-Fuel Chevrolet Impala Sedan
      2013-10-16
      -GM to offer only manufacturer-produced full-size bi-fuel sedan in North America
      -Designed to capitalize on plentiful clean, domestic natural gas
      -Will be sold to retail and fleet buyers as a 2015 model
      -CEO repeats call for consumer-driven national energy policy
      WASHINGTON, D.C. – General Motors will build a Chevrolet Impala sedan for retail and fleet customers that operates on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG), GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson announced today.
      It is the only manufacturer-produced full-size bi-fuel sedan and expected to go on sale next summer as a 2015 model. Akerson announced the car during remarks at an energy summit marking the 40th anniversary of the OPEC Oil Embargo.
      "OPEC Oil Embargo + 40: A National Summit on Energy Security," was sponsored by the nonpartisan group Securing America's Future Energy, or SAFE. Prominent political, business and military leaders assessed the current state of America's oil dependence since the 1973 oil embargo
      Akerson said the bi-fuel Impala is an example of using affordable technology to reduce oil consumption and save consumers money at the pump.
      "We know that U.S. energy security won't come from a one-off moonshot," Akerson said. "It will flow from our systematic investment in technology and innovation... our drive to get more from existing energy sources and renewables... our commitment to conservation... and it will be assured by fully and safely exploiting our shale gas reserves."
      Natural gas is a cleaner-burning transportation fuel compared to petroleum products, and costs significantly less than gasoline at current prices. CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the California Air Resources Board.
      The Chevrolet Impala bi-fuel sedan addresses the range anxiety issue associated with vehicles that run only on natural gas, Akerson said. It features a factory-engineered and fully warranted powertrain that switches seamlessly from CNG to gasoline. Total range is expected to be up to 500 miles.
      Akerson said that in addition to advanced technologies and alternative fuels, achieving energy security will require productive partnerships between energy companies, utilities, environmental groups, labor unions, universities and manufacturers.
      GM, he said, is working closely with 14 of the country's largest unions and environmental groups through the Blue-Green Alliance, and has relationships with regulators that are "more constructive than ever."
      Akerson also reiterated a call he made earlier this year for the Administration and Congress to create a new, consumer-driven national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance.
      For its part, GM is committed to saving 12 billion gallons of gasoline in its 2011 to 2017 model year vehicles – offsetting nearly a year of crude imports from the Persian Gulf – with technologies that include lighter materials to reduce vehicle mass, alternative fuels, clean diesel and electrification.
      In addition to the Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Spark EV and the upcoming Cadillac ELR, GM is introducing start-stop technology standard on the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu helping the midsize sedan achieve 25 mpg city/36 mpg highway, and using electrification to boost fuel economy in the Buick Regal and LaCrosse sedans, which both get EPA-estimated 36 mpg hwy.

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      William Maley
      Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
      July 31, 2013
      Ford announced today that the 2014 F-150 pickup equipped with the 3.7L V6 will come with a CNG/LPG Prep package, making it the first light-duty pickup in the class to come with this feature. The package includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings. The CNG/LPG Prep package will set you back $315.
      That doesn't mean you can head to your nearest CNG/LPG station and fill up though. You will need to visit a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier which will install the CNG/LPG-specific fuel tanks, fuel lines and fuel injectors. When all is said and done, the conversion will set you back $7,500 to $9,500.
      Ford says an F-150 running on CNG/LPG gets 23 MPG on the highway and has a range of more than 750 Miles.
      “Businesses and fleet customers have been asking Ford to make F-150 available with CNG capability to take advantage of the fuel’s low price and clean emissions. With the money saved using CNG, customers could start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months,” said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager.
      Source: Ford
      William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.
      Press Release is on Page 2
      JUL 31, 2013 | DEARBORN, MICH.
      FORD F-150 TO OFFER ABILITY TO RUN ON COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS; SALES OF FORD CNG-PREPPED VEHICLES CONTINUE GROWTH
      2014 Ford F-150 will offer a gaseous-fuel prep option on the 3.7-liter V6 engine; it will be able to run on compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas
      With the addition of F-150, Ford will have eight vehicles available to run on clean-burning, inexpensive CNG/LPG. Sales continue to grow rapidly, with Ford expecting to sell more than 15,000 CNG/LPG-prepped vehicles this year
      Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifiers offer a wide variety of CNG options to help customers find the best, most cost-effective solution to their diverse operating needs

      Ford, America’s truck leader, will offer the 2014 F-150 with the ability to run on compressed natural gas, making Ford the only manufacturer with an available CNG/LPG-capable half-ton pickup.
      The 2014 Ford F-150 with 3.7-liter V6 engine will be available this fall with a factory-installed, gaseous-fuel prep package that includes hardened valves, valve seats, pistons and rings so it can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.
      When the 3.7-liter V6 F-150 is equipped with a CNG/LPG engine package, it is capable of achieving more than 750 miles on one tank of gas, depending on the tank size selected. The Ford F-150 averages 23 mpg on the highway.
      “Businesses and fleet customers have been asking Ford to make F-150 available with CNG capability to take advantage of the fuel’s low price and clean emissions,” said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager. “With the money saved using CNG, customers could start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months.”
      CNG/LPG engine prep from the factory costs approximately $315 before the customer chooses a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier to supply fuel tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors. Upfits run approximately $7,500 to $9,500 depending on fuel tank capacity.
      CNG conversions can provide stability against fluctuating fuel prices as well as lower vehicle operating costs for fleet administrators. CNG sells for an average of $2.11 per gallon of gasoline equivalent, and is as low as $1 in some parts of the country, representing a significant savings over unleaded regular fuel. The national average for unleaded regular fuel is $3.66 per gallon.
      In the next year, Ford will offer eight commercial vehicles with a gaseous-prep option, a number no other full-line manufacturer can match:
      Transit Connect van and wagon
      Transit van, wagon, cutaway and chassis cab
      E-Series van, wagon, cutaway and stripped chassis
      F-Series Super Duty pickup and F-350 chassis cab
      F-Series Super Duty chassis cab (F-450, F-550)
      F-650 medium-duty truck
      F53 and F59 stripped chassis
      2014 F-150 light-duty pickup

      Customers are enthusiastically responding to this powerful array of choices. Since reintroducing the option in 2009, Ford has established itself as the leader in CNG/LPG engine sales. Ford is on pace to sell more than 15,000 CNG/LPG-prepped vehicles this year, an increase of more than 25 percent from 2012.
      AT&T is one of many Ford customers that are finding value in CNG. The communications giant recently purchased 650 F-350 chassis cabs with the CNG-prep option.
      “We’re almost halfway to our company-wide goal of deploying 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by the end of year 2018,” said Jerome Webber, AT&T vice president, global fleet operations. “Vehicles such as CNG F-350s from Ford have helped us avoid purchasing 7.7 million gallons of gasoline over the past five years while reducing our fleet’s emissions.”
      Qualified Vehicle Modifiers
      Ford has established a rigorous qualification program for alternative-fuel vehicle modifiers. The QVM program is intended to help modifiers achieve greater levels of customer satisfaction and product acceptance through the manufacture of high-quality vehicles.
      QVMs offer a wide variety of CNG/LPG options to help customers find the best, most cost-effective solution to their diverse operating needs. Ford maintains the engine and powertrain limited warranty (five years or 60,000 miles); the modifier is responsible for the system component warranty.
      Compressed natural gas
      Compressed natural gas is mainly composed of methane. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of approximately 3,600 psi. About 85 percent of the CNG used in the United States is produced domestically.
      Another benefit of this alternative fuel: Cleaner emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certifies CNG usage can result in up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.

      View full article
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