Utah Passes Law Sidestepping EPA to Make Natural Gas Conversions Much Cheaper

As I’ve been covering for the last few months, a bill that makes converting vehicles to run on compressed natural gas about 57% less expensive was signed into law in Utah yesterday.

The law should bring the current $14,000 average cost of installing natural gas conversions in Utah down to about $6,000.

By sidestepping the EPA process for certifying natural gas conversion kits, Utah takes the vast majority of the bureaucracy out of it. According to CNG conversion advocates, the current EPA rules surrounding the kits are too stringent, leading to inflated prices and a dearth of kits for a tiny selection of vehicle models. The new state law creates a process whereby any given CNG conversion kit wouldn’t have to be certified by EPA to be considered a legal conversion. Instead the kit would simply have to be approved and installed by a Utah Division of Air Quality certified technician and checked for safety every 3 years or 36,000 miles.

Although making CNG conversion kits more accessible seems like a step in the right direction, there is new evidence that perhaps we need to make sure natural gas is a clean as it’s made out to be. As I reported yesterday, the mining and processing of natural gas might actually be worse for the environment than driving gas powered cars because it leads to the release of large amounts methane—a potent greenhouse gas.

Although that conclusion is far from verified and accepted, it does make you wonder if we’re making the right decisions. Certainly there are many other benefits to driving a CNG vehicle such as cheaper fuel costs, less engine wear and tear and much lower tailpipe emissions and these all have to be weighed against the environmental effects of mining and processing a given fossil fuel. These “well-to-wheel”, “cradle-to-grave” or “lifecycle” analyses, as they’re called, are extraordinarily complex and fraught with potential for error, yet they are a large part of determining what fuels we choose as our energy sources of the future.

Source: ABC 4

Image Credit: ecastro’s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.