American or foreign? New auto question is “Gas or CNG?”

by karlhenk

Fort Worth, Texas — I used to drive a Honda Civic.

And I used to take a beating.

In the era of American nationalism versus foreign affordability, I took the latter.

Ken Morgan shows off his CNG-powered Honda Civic.

The verbal lashings got so bad that I was even asked not to visit the General Motors Lordstown plant.

Yes, that is the same plant which will soon begin production on a diesel-powered Chevrolet Cruze.

But after a recent trip to North Central Texas, it occurred to me that “American vs. foreign” shouldn’t be the determining factor in buying a car.

That question, thanks to my quick lesson and test drive with Ken Morgan, should be “gas or CNG?”

Morgan’s vehicle is interesting, to say the least, and that’s after you get past the giant purple Horned Frog draped across the side.

Morgan, director of the Energy Institute at Texas Christian University, drives a Honda Civic, but it doesn’t run on regular-grade, $4-per-gall0n gas.

It runs on compressed natural gas.

Yes, the same natural gas that energy companies have extracted from under our feet for years.

Morgan gets the same 400-miles-a-tank I used to get on my 2002 Honda Civic, but he pays half the cost.

The emissions from his car? Halved.

Compressed natural gas, or CNG, is the next best alternative to America’s oil crisis, at least according to those in Texas.

The abundance of natural gas is so great, America has too much supply and not enough demand, one reason CNG sells for the equivalent of about $2 per gallon.

Oil, for those paying attention, is in the exact opposite scenario.

I’ll spare the intimate details of how CNG vehicles are different from the gas guzzlers most of us drive.

Just know this: fleets are converting to CNG as quickly as possible. They see the cost and environmental savings of CNG.

The average price for a per-gallon equivalent of compressed natural gas is roughly half the cost of regular-grade gasoline.

As for us normal folk?

We’re waiting for one of two things: enough CNG stations to warrant the purchase of a CNG vehicle, or enough choices of CNG vehicles to warrant more CNG stations.

Honda has manufactured Morgan’s CNG Civic for more than a decade. Chrysler and General Motors recently announced the addition of CNG trucks to their lineups.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. is doing something about that; it recently said it will add 10 to 20 stations in the Northeast Ohio-Western Pennsylvania region.

The vehicles themselves, for now, will cost a few thousand more initially, but again, half the cost once you hit the road.

So the next time you’re ready to buy a new car, don’t ask yourself the typical “American or foreign” question.

As yourself this.

Do you want to pay $4 per gallon or $2 per gallon?

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.

Read the complete NewsOutlet/Vindy Fort Worth series beginning April 1.

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