Alternative Fuel Conference speakers talk about “fuel of the future”

Compressed natural gas is the “fuel of the future” according to speakers at the 2014 Louisiana Alternative Fuels Conference and Expo Friday at LSU. That doesn’t mean that it’s a brand-new concept because some organizations have decades of experience using the fuel in their vehicles.

Entergy installed its first compressed natural gas fueling station in 1980 and spent the next 20 years converting vehicles while building public and private fueling stations including two in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans, said Robert Borne with Entergy.

In the late 1990s, Entergy purchased one of the first compressed natural gas forklifts in the state as part of an ongoing effort to test as many types of vehicles on the fuel as possible.

That forklift is still in use today, Borne said, with no problem.

Entergy purchased many different kinds of promotional cars and were involved in numerous educational events like science camps.

“Then in 2005, our priorities changed,” Borne said.

The company lost its fueling stations and 60 percent to 70 percent of its fleet during Hurricane Katrina, shifting its focus to rebuilding.

“But we’re back to helping rebuild and promote this product,” he said.

Entergy currently operates a small fleet of natural gas vehicles and operates two public and three private fueling stations, he said.

On a much larger scale, Rueben Stokes, with Ryder truck leasing company, said it currently has about 500 natural gas vehicles and expects to increase that to more than 1,000 by the end of the year.

“We have made a significant commitment to natural gas because we believe it’s going to be the fuel of the future,” Stokes said.

Although the vehicles are more expensive, the natural gas is a cheaper fuel source. It creates less of a carbon footprint and improves air quality.

Ryder decided to get involved in natural gas in 2009 when the state of California decided that there needed to be more alternative fuel vehicles on the road and the state provided incentives to get companies involved.

The conference was organized by Louisiana Clean Fuels, the Southeast Clean Fuels Partnership and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter @awold10.