Pa. natural gas reserves fuel changes in auto industry

    As gasoline prices accelerate above $4 a gallon, there may be more interest in cars that run on natural gas. Most vehicles powered by natural gas are part of a fleet, such as buses or trash trucks.

    But Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom may smooth the landscape for individually owned natural gas vehicles.

    Natural gas is going for about $2 dollars a gallon right now. But if you want to buy a new natural gas vehicle for personal use, you must live in California, New York, Utah or Oklahoma. Pennsylvania drivers will have to wait until the end of next year, when Honda plans to roll out its natural gas-fueled Civic nationwide.

    And although the numbers sold are still small–only about 1,600 last year–a company representative says Honda is about to run out of the 2011 model.

    Denise McCourt of NGV America, an industry trade group, said Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom is a game-changer for natural gas vehicles.

    “Just a few years ago, natural gas was considered a precious commodity. But now in recent years, with this understanding that we have tremendous supplies of natural gas all across the country, there are opportunities to use this natural gas,” said McCourt. “So the opportunities to develop those resources and to use it as a transportation fuel have really changed the dynamic in the last few years.”

    McCourt said two things are keeping natural gas vehicles from becoming more popular–they cost more and there are few places to refuel.

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