Are Natural Gas and the Post Office Perfect for Each Other?

The Oklahoman reported last week about a movement out of Oklahoma City to get the United States Postal Service to switch from gasoline and diesel to natural-gas-powered vehicles. Natural gas is cheaper than either of those two fuels right now, which would be good for the USPS, but the real story here is in the power of demand. In this video, Fool.com contributor Aimee Duffy takes a look at what would happen if the Post Office pursued this idea.

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  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 10:00 AM, kkbvhj wrote:

    Several thoughts as follows:

    1/ There needs to be a supply before a demand can be built. No one will purchase/modify a vehicle [especially an entire fleet of vehicles] unless there is substantial supply on hand. That supply simply is not available in most large cities, much less small towns... and when you consider that a high percentage of our facilities are located in small to medium towns, there needs to be major infrastructure development before this can even be considered.

    2/ Some postal vehicles are potentially able to use natural gas [FFVs or Flex Fuel Vehicles]. However, these aren't even half the fleet. We have one- and two-ton vehicles that utilize diesel. We have cars, trucks, and vans that have gasoline-only engines. We have LLVs [Long Life Vehicles] that are gasoline-only. It would cost too much to retrofit or replace our fleet; the natural gas savings would have to be significant, and according to this interview the situation would actually just be break-even. That wouldn't save the post office any money at all, and would actually put us deeper in the red.

    3/ A grass-roots campaign to switch the postal fleet is just that... a campaign. They aren't going to accomplish their goal because it literally takes an act of Congress to change anything at the post office. From the cost of stamps to the amount of purchasing power at an individual post office, the Congressional postal oversight committee has to approve it all. You will not get a majority consensus to approve the outlay this would require.

    4/ Commercial usage is usually the standard by which government measures the worth of a new product. In general, if something fails miserably with the public [such as certain types of technology], the government sector refuses to subsidize it. That's one of the reasons all that corn-fueled gas never went mainstream.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 10:05 AM, EugeneNight wrote:

    Do you know where thay get this natrual gas from?

    Fracking.

    You know what fracking causes, alot of unesscessary damage to the enviorment.

    I'm not even really against "fossil fuels", but fracking is a terrible way to obtain them.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 10:13 AM, businessgypsy wrote:

    Careful, @EugeneNight, you'll sprain your knee!

    On the realistic side of the equation, no single easily achievable move could do more for improving our environment and ending dependency on outside energy sources than the conversion of heavy OTR trucks from diesel to natural gas. Every truck stop in the nation would jump at the chance to distribute the fuel if regulatory roadblocks to conversion were removed. USPS conversion would be a small start in the right direction!

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 10:35 AM, EugeneNight wrote:

    You don't live in fracking land PA, I do.

    These fracking companies abuse country roads that weren't ment for such heavy traffic and wont pay for them.

    Then they'll get rid of the water tanker drivers before they have to start paying them good money.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 11:00 AM, Grandpastu wrote:

    As Congress makes the laws that pertain to fuel use in government agencies, I think they should decide what fuels should be used. As Congess is full of hot air and an overabundance of natural gas, they are the authorities to decide!

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 11:04 AM, VegasSmitty367 wrote:

    We could save even more by just closing the post offices nationwide!

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 12:18 PM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    Aimee and Tyler;

    Many postal rigs already use natural gas. You're a few years (like 30) behind the curve.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 12:20 PM, phillipzx3 wrote:

    "We could save even more by just closing the post offices nationwide!"

    Ya, right. I have a bridge for sale as well.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 12:45 PM, Engineer8608 wrote:

    Your article is so close.... But you missed something...

    I am an engineer trained to build vehicles like the ones mentioned. Although I doubt natural gas is a replacement for diesel engines because of the torque created by diesels (used to haul heavy loads), natural gas is a decent replacement for gasoline engines. The individual mail carrier Jeeps would be perfect for natural gas engines.

    The reason the general public has not adopted natural gas powered vehicles is the lack of refueling stations. The post office could convert their individual mail carrier vehicles to run on natural gas.... But the part you missed is the post office could also become local natural gas refueling stations... Everyone knows where their local post office is located...

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 1:46 PM, jgs111 wrote:

    The smartest move would be to switch to natural gas and open natural gas service stations and convenience stores at every post office for additional revenue.

    if some smart investor decides to act on this then please contact me as I have an entire plan which could make the post office and partners one of the premier energy providers in this country.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 1:51 PM, jgs111 wrote:

    I didn't see the proceeding comment which happens to be about something similar. Mine was researched many years ago for using the postal service for refueling alternative energy vehicles of all sorts. It could position the postal service to become very profitable for many years and stop from worrying about money providing one of the most important services ever offered to every single American.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 1:58 PM, jdg165 wrote:

    My father drove a LPG truck back in the 50's They hauled, Bottled Gas. These trucks would pull a hill with no problems and usually held their own with all but the biggest diesel engines. The emissions were negligible and when they changed the oil it looked like it was just put into the vehicle.

    Is is not very hard to change an engine over to burn most fuels. Back in the 60's the Marine Corp had diesels that would burn anything flammable. From Alcohol to diesel thanks to a simple unit called a density compensator. Natural gas is a viable fuel and readily available, all we need are distribution points and for the gov a means to tax it.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 2:14 PM, dwilson1121 wrote:

    i work in a school district that used 55 CNG buses. just with these we save over $20,000.00 a month

    easy to fuel we have fueling poles

    I drive a CNG and if has plenty of get up and go.

    only thing is we really can not take thiem on long trips no fueling stations. This is in the Houston Area

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 4:11 PM, kkbvhj wrote:

    A problem exists when you talk about turning the post office into refueling stations.

    By Congressional edict, we are not allowed to run at a profit. Any excess the post office makes is redirected to Congressional pork projects, which is one of the very reasons why the post office is foundering right now; we were in the black until about six years ago when the prefunding order was handed down.

    In order to be involved in fuel sales, we would have to be competitive. However by the same break-even edict, we would have to sell fuel for the same price at which it was purchased or, more likely, for a price set on a quarterly basis. Just like stamp prices, there would be no leniency for price fluctuations and this would become yet another drag on the post office's bottom line.

    Not only that, but if our policies weren't changed we would eventually develop a monopoly on fuel based on our non-competitive, non-profit pricing. A fuel monopoly is illegal, therefore either the post office would be placed in an untenable position, or Congress would have to act in direct violation of their standard practices by withdrawing their not-for-profit clause.

    I've been a postal employee for almost twenty years. There have been many wonderful ideas floated around that could buoy our sinking ship; unfortunately, Congress is the iceberg we can't escape.

  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 5:55 PM, casino08 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On June 01, 2013, at 10:14 PM, MERVANproject wrote:

    Folks,

    I appreciate your comments. Here is the reality, we spend $365 billion annually importing oil. Soccer Dads and Moms spend $134 billion annually on fuel to go to work, buy groceries and take their kids to and from events. The United States Postal Service is the fuel for the fire that will ignite our economy. If we can help them by saving $500 million a year in maintenance and fuel cost while building infrastructure and enabling auto manufactures to build dedicated CNG vehicles we can generate $1 trillion in economic development in the U.S. over the next 4 years. Please contact us at TheMERVANproject@mervanproject.org. I truly appreciate your comments and inputs...keep um coming.

  • Report this Comment On June 04, 2013, at 11:43 AM, Topdog1114 wrote:

    Natural gas powered vehicles are nothing new to USPS. They used them in the late 90s. I've been building and maintaining natural gas refueling stations since 1998 all over the country. It is an excellent alternative fuel but I have said this and will keep saying it. As long as the oil company's have the politicians in their pockets it will never take off like it should. It gained a ton of momentum in the late 80s into the late 90s and then went away. Will it stick this time? I don't know. I follow clean energy closely and they have good intentions but it may be all for not.

  • Report this Comment On June 05, 2013, at 10:54 AM, sofajima wrote:

    Co-locating fueling stations at the local post office and having the USPS in the retail energy business makes no sense whatsoever. KKBVHJ knows what he or she is talking about. Free market capitalism, not crony capitalism, is the best bet for the success or failure of nat gas use in vehicles. I live in a relatively small town. I do know where the Post Office is. The furor that would erupt if it was even suggested to somehow squeeze a fueling station in or around there would be epic.

  • Report this Comment On June 05, 2013, at 11:01 AM, sofajima wrote:

    Topdog, we didn't have the nat gas supply in the late 80s and early 90s that we have today. And, if my memory isn't too bad, oil went down to about $20/barrel! My hope is that the use of nat gas gets enough critical mass that reverting back to oil would not make economic sense even if the energy per equivalent unit per dollar was equal between oil and nat gas.

  • Report this Comment On June 05, 2013, at 11:09 AM, sofajima wrote:

    From the little bit I've read, I'm under the impression that the torque required from nat gas engines to haul heavy loads up the mountains is gaining on the diesel engines. WPRT is working on HPDI just for that reason, I suspect. The one article I read did wonder why Cummins was developing a spark-ignited nat gas engine since it presumably would have difficulty competing with a diesel engine in this realm of performance. That pretty much exhausts my knowledge of engines. I'm open to being educated on the subject.

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