BOISE, Idaho — Supporters and business leaders this week celebrated the opening of the state’s first compressed natural gas fueling station in Boise, and they’re poised to mark the opening of a second station next week in Nampa.
The decision to make the stations available to the public emerged from a partnership between the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition and Allied Waste Services.
In 2008, Allied Waste Services converted its Treasure Valley fleet of 50 heavy-duty vehicles to natural gas to avoid new regulations being proposed for vehicles using diesel fuel.
“It’s clean, it’s domestic and it’s quiet,” Allied general manager Dave Fisher told the Idaho Statesman Thursday.
Compressed natural gas is also the fuel of choice for ValleyRide, the region’s public bus system. The Statesman ( http://bit.ly/rn8x4d) reports that the Boise Fire Department and a handful of other entities are considering conversion.
Still, it will likely be several years before more Idaho cars and trucks are running on natural gas and refilling at stations around the state.
Automakers are planning to offer more vehicles that burn natural gas, on average about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline. The trade-off is that natural gas vehicles can cost consumers $3,000 to $6,000 more.
General Motors and Ford both manufacture compressed natural gas vehicles for fleet use. But only Honda has brought a consumer option to market in the United States. In Europe, car buyers can choose from more than a dozen models.
The 2012 Honda Civic GX, with a starting price of $25,490, is nearly $10,000 more than a gasoline-powered Honda. But its sales are expected to expand. Conversions are available, as are bi-fuel vehicles, which use both gasoline and compressed natural gas.
“As prices of vehicles come down, it can become very viable for the individual,” said Beth Baird, air quality program coordinator and the head of the Treasure Valley Clean Cities Coalition.
But the real issue is the development of a national network of fueling stations. Since 2008, former Texas oilman and current natural gas crusader T. Boone Pickens has pushed for federal legislation that would provide tax credits to help people and businesses buy vehicles and help businesses set up fueling stations.
The nation had 893 compressed natural gas stations in 2010, the Department of Energy said. And while natural gas provides a quarter of the nation’s energy, only 1 percent is used for transportation.
The two Idaho natural gas stations fill in a critical hole for the national network. The Seattle area has a significant number of compressed natural gas autos and its own network of stations. So does Utah, which has 74 stations statewide.
But with drivers having to fill up every 150 miles, long-range travel was difficult. Even now, stations are needed in the Magic Valley and across Oregon and eastern Washington, officials said.