The price of oil is sharply down from last year, but if there’s one thing Louisiana has still got, it’s lots of natural gas at a historically low price level.
That is of course good news for the metropolitan areas of the state, including big refineries in Baton Rouge and Lake Charles and in the River Parishes above New Orleans. They are consumers of oil, but the industry complex is also a huge consumer of natural gas for petrochemical manufacturing.
Those industries are important economic drivers, but what about regular automobile drivers? A number of business vehicle fleets have been covering to compressed natural gas instead of regular gasoline-powered engines.
An obstacle to wider acceptance of CNG vehicles has been infrastructure: Where do you go when you need a fill-up?
Fleet vehicles are typically fueled at CNG stations where they are based; there is also at least one station accessible for heavy-duty vehicles on South Choctaw Drive in Baton Rouge.
In Lafayette, a company recently opened a public CNG station on Verot School Road, one of several stations along the Interstate 10 corridor, including one in Houston. The addition allows fleet owners “to make the shift away from diesel and (extend) the range of CNG-powered fleets already on the road today,” said TruStar President Adam Comora of the new station.
Will all this catch on? We are of course delighted to see a Louisiana product being used for vehicles. There seems little danger of natural gas running out, even with the increased use in vehicles and exporting of natural gas to other countries — the latter is also a dawning industry in Louisiana.
At the same time, electric vehicles are becoming competitive and longer-ranged, appealing to other motorists.
The marketplace will eventually decide if gasoline is to be widely replaced by alternatives, but today’s lower gasoline prices suggest that it’s a little harder sell right now for switching to CNG or electric cars.
And while there is no guarantee over the longer term that gasoline prices — or for that matter, natural gas prices — will stay as low as they are today, the fact is that Louisiana’s oil and gas industry is leading the way in a revolution of productivity.
The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — “fracking” — and enhanced methods of recovery are bringing more onshore oil and gas into the marketplace. This is a supply revolution in the supply-and-demand system, so prices will be down for a while. But the worldwide demand for energy will only increase and Louisiana’s key role as a producer and refiner of petrochemical products is one our critical contributions to the economy of the globe, not just our nation.
With new outlets, such as vehicles and exports, Louisiana’s natural gas production is a vital and growing element in our economy.
We welcome these advances.