I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the Guest Columnist article penned Nov. 13 by Eric Planey entitled, "Valley at the Forefront of Alternate Energy Sources" and was published in the Tribune Chronicle.
In the article, Mr. Planey states that, "the Mahoning Valley is quietly becoming a significant hub for alternative fuel vehicle technology, including electric vehicle technology and compressed natural gas (CNG)." While there may be some glimmers of interest in these technologies in the region, we are hardly "in the forefront" compared to other regions of the country. More on this later.
To his credit Mr. Planey does try to make a reasonable argument for using both electric and natural gas as a transportation fuel, but his admitted bias glaringly stands in the way of making a serious assessment. For example, Mr. Planey offers:
"Recently, one of the most ardent proponents of CNG, Chesapeake [Energy], abandoned their direct participation in CNG by cutting its CNG team as part of a greater restructuring."
What Mr. Planey fails to mention is that Chesapeake Energy invested $150 million in Clean Energy Fuels, Inc (CLNE) some years ago and today Clean Energy is the largest operator / builder of CNG / LNG fueling stations in the country. CLNE is doing so well now that recently Chesapeake was able to recoup their investment in the company. Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is also an investor in Clean Energy.
"Further, a man named Elon Musk created one of the most wondrous cars ever made, the Tesla Model S. Consumer Reports, in May, called the Model S the best car it ever tested."
Unfortunately, Tesla has had a hard time meeting production goals for the lack of sufficient quantities of batteries, not to mention the fact the three vehicles have caught fire. "Wondrous?" Let me know when you see one in your neighborhood.
"When I questioned a high-end private equity firm in Houston last month on why they haven't invested in CNG technology or infrastructure, they responded that their internal analysis demonstrated the economics were not right for them. It makes more sense, in their eyes, to increase natural gas as a source for electricity in the U.S., than to use that electricity to power your vehicle."
Not sure about your point here? Are you saying that the equity firm wouldn't invest in Tesla? If so, I would have to agree with them on that. You know yourself, Mr. Planey, that sizable investments have been made in this area by large natural gas exploration and production companies. In your position at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber you were intimately involved with the YOUNG 2013 Expo at the Covelli Center in Youngstown this past fall. The Expo featured many of these same companies and others involved in serving the natural gas industry.
I was very interested in attending the Chamber's expo when I heard that the emphasis this year would be placed on the use of compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel. The announcement of IGS Energy / CNG Services building a CNG fueling station in Girard and their CEO's attendance at the expo also got me interested. Unfortunately, they were the only attendee that was involved in CNG fueling station construction.
So, Mr. Planey, I chose to attend the Great Lakes Truck Expo at the Convention Center in Cleveland instead of your expo. There I met with four different companies involved with CNG / LNG fueling station construction and attended seminars relating to fueling station construction, natural gas vehicles, and maintenance facilities. And the best part ... it was all free, compared to the $100 plus to attend the YOUNG 2013 Expo.
Now to be clear, natural gas fueling infrastructure is no longer a "cottage industry." As I mentioned previously, the fueling station to be built by CNG Services in Girard is backed by IGS Energy. IGS Energy services more than 1 million residential, commercial and industrial natural gas customers across an 11-state region.
Trillium CNG base in Utah recently announced that they would build 100 natural gas fueling stations throughout the country. Trillium CNG is backed by Integrys Energy Group, a regional energy leader with nearly 5,000 employees across the Midwest.
Transfuels, LLC also base in Utah recently announced that they would build 500 LNG stations throughout the US. They are backed by the ENN Group Co. LTD, a natural gas supplier and one of China's largest companies.
In closing Mr. Planey opines, "And given the Valley's historical mistake of being overly reliant on one industry, I don't want the region to pick one over the other and not realize the upside economically from any of it."
So I have to ask, Mr. Planey, when's that last time you saw an "electric well" in the Mahoning Valley?
Wise is Mahoning Valley resident and a construction superintendent with extensive experience completing commercial, industrial and military projects throughout the US. He has plans in the works to construct CNG fueling stations.