Green Up Your Gas Hog

But they don’t. It costs between $12,500 to $22,500 to convert a gasoline-powered car to natural gas in an autoshop. That old gas hog just can’t be greened up for cheap. Now. But it could be.

Natural gas conversions don’t not have to cost that much: there is no technological problem driving what it truly needs to cost for auto mechanics to make a living at it. The true cost is only a few hundred dollars in parts and labor. The reason for this incredible difference is exceedingly interesting, as Robert Rapier notes in a well researched piece over at The Oil Drum on  the feasibility of switching from Gasoline to Natural Gas.

Not only is the reason interesting, but embedded in the reason is the simple way to solve it. Then converting cars to Natural Gas could cost what it actually costs; just a few hundred dollars – an hour’s work; a few parts.

We could cut our very hoggy national carbon footprint by switching to natural gas which we now have an abundant supply of if these new natural gas reserve numbers are even remotely accurate. So we could drive  less hoggy on somewhat cleaner fuel. And – (supposedly) in the carpool lane

The VP of The Auto Channel claims that this cost is unnecessary:

CNG conversion costs are only high because of an old EPA licensing requirement, says Marc Raush:

“For an individual (or shop) to be licensed to do a conversion, the person must pay $10,000 per year, per engine type, per year of manufacture. So that if a conversion shop wanted to do conversions in 2009 for Camrys for the years 1995 to 2005, the shop owner would have to pay the government $100,000 in licensing fees. “

“Then, if he wanted to do conversions on the same models in 2010, he would have to pay the $100,000 again, even though they are the exact same models and engines that he has been licensed on already. And if there is more than one engine involved, i.e., a 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder, the cost would double.”

“Therefore, if a shop owner wanted to do 10 model years of Camrys and Corollas and Celicas, and well as Honda Accords and Civics, unless there were common engines being used in these five models the licensing cost (for just one engine per) would be a half million dollars, which would have to be paid again in 2010.

Licensing fees of a few million dollars every year would certainly dissuade most shops from going into the conversion business!

“The cost of the conversion kits are actually relatively inexpensive. If there was a sensible licensing fee (or no fee) the cost for the work could be just a few hundred dollars.”

“These fees are, needless to say, ridiculous and are only there to ensure that many don’t get done (thanks to the gasoline lobby).”

The nay-sayers will claim that there’s another reason many don’t get done. Those who typically poo-poo the possibility of the status quo ever changing say there’s not enough trained CNG conversion mechanics.

But how many trained auto mechanics were there when we switched from horses to horsepower? Nada. But, the demand for them created them in due time. I’ll bet there’s no shortage of mechanics that would be willing to learn conversion if it wasn’t a prohibitively expensive line of work to get into.

Anyone inclined to train for this new green – but grimy – job could contact the first community colleges teaching CNG conversions in Rio Hondo and Yuba College in California.  Or the University of West Virginia; which has a great automotive program (including these conversions) that they’ve “syndicated” to other colleges around the country.

There’s a good chance that this ridiculous licensing requirement could be overturned by a more proactive congress than we’ve had in some time.

That’s because this is very low hanging fruit in the fight to lower carbon and be energy independent – and without spending a dime. This is exactly what’s on the almost impossible yet Must Do List for this congress – so you could do something about this: