No more diesel-powered trucks on the road? The day is a long way off, but the Wall Street Journal says the surge in natural gas exploration is already prompting some fleets to switch to the cheaper alternative. In the past year, natural gas has become abundant and cheap—the price has plummeted 45%—thanks to enhanced drilling methods that tap into the US's shale rock formations. With diesel often costing twice as much as natural gas at the pump, the transportation industry is taking notice.
"The economics favoring natural gas are overwhelming," says the VP of Ryder trucks. And Waste Management Inc. has already committed to purchasing 80% of its new garbage trucks over the next five years to run on natural gas. But many fleet-operators are wary of obstacles such as pricier trucks, the lack of refueling stations, and bulky tanks. (Natural gas is less dense than diesel, so trucks need bigger tanks or must refuel more often, explains the Journal.) In a survey of 100 trucking executives, nearly a third said they were researching a shift to natural gas, but 54% said the current infrastructure needed big improvements first.