Natural gas move of city bus fleet a winning initiative

River Valley Transit unveiled 10 new compressed natural gas buses last week.

Those additions add to a fleet of vehicles the city’s public transportation system is operating on cleaner-burning fuel.

In our view, this is nothing but the most welcome form of good news.

Use of natural gas as a fuel reduces pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and sulphur oxide, according to Marcus Kohl, regional director for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Given that DEP is the monitoring agency for the natural gas industry, that’s as good an endorsement as the use of natural gas for fuel can get.

In fact, DEP has numerical estimates of reductions in air emissions of pollutants through this form of fuel for the buses: Two pounds per day of sulphur oxides; four pounds per day of particulate matter; five pounds per hour of nitrogen oxides; and eight pounds per minute of carbon monoxide.

We understand the natural gas industry has its critics. But it’s an indisputable fact that these gases are among those contributing to overall air pollution.

And, of course, the use of natural gas reduces dependency on foreign oil, so there are big-picture positives to the conversion of the public transportation fleet to natural gas. And as an added payoff, riders don’t have to smell diesel fuel.

Finally, the conversion makes fiscal sense. Seven years since starting the conversion, the bus service has saved about $400,000 on fuel.

The increase in the fleet’s natural gas conversion is clearly a multiplier on a winning initiative.