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Today's word on journalism

March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1863-2009

"Can Seattle's oldest newspaper be successfully transformed into a child of the information age? The Northwest is a land of big dreams. With the demise of the Soviet Union, one quipster noted that Puget Sound is now home to three empires still bent on global dominion: Microsoft, and Starbuck's. If the stars align properly and with a quality product, Seattle will show the way to a new model for journalism of the written word."

--Joel Connelly, columnist, in today's final print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Editorial Comment: And when the newspapers die. . . .

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

EPA regulations may limit availability of natural gas vehicles

By J.P. Rodriguez

February 24, 2009 | LOGAN -- Many feel that the EPA may be a hindrance to the certification process of vehicles that run compressed natural gas (CNG).

These vehicles could present an alternative for people who seek to save fuel money. According to Tammi Godfrey at the USU motorpool, the cost for a gallon of CNG is $1.14.

"The EPA has been very slow in certifying engine blocks, conversion kits, and installers," said state Rep. Jack Draxler, a member of the natural resources committee at the Utah House of Representatives, who represents District 3 in Logan.

Current EPA regulations, based on a letter from 3 Feb. 2006, which requires manufacturers and importers to apply for separate certification for each conversion kit for each car, for each model year. Added requirements in this letter, titled Updated certification guidance for alternative fuel converters, also requires expensive lab tests, and may even ask the applicant send a modified vehicle for testing at the EPA's facilities in Ann Arbor, MIch.

"These tests could cost up to $50,000 for the test alone, for each certificate," said Matt, a local man who asked to keep his name and occupation anonymous. "There are many conversion kits that work on almost any car out there, but people seeking EPA certification have to apply for each car type, for every year, even though some car uses the same engine for several years."

Matt has purchased and installed a kit on his business vehicle. "I know it is illegal," said Matt, "But what can I do?" He did not sound too worried about getting caught, however.

"It is ridiculous," said Matt. "It limits the availability and cost of these kits to the public. That's why I did what I did."

The EPA calls these modifications "tampering" and does say that people can be held liable for illegally modifying cars. "But there is no one to really enforce it," said Matt. "The EPA doesn't have many people, and the state [of Utah] does not have any organization to deal, check, or enforce these modifications."

"We need to include in our state inspections the capability to inspect natural gas vehicles," said Draxler. “If they are not properly installed, and are faulty kits, they can be dangerous to the people who use them, and release pollutants into the air.”

He said that installing kits that have not been approved by the EPA will also deny people the tax breaks available for owning an alternative fuel vehicle, and may even keep owners from registering that vehicle. Despite this, there are many people like Matt who have made these modifications to their cars.

"The best we can do is to send a clear message to Washington, and say... do your job," said Draxler. Considering the current state budget crisis, he does not think that any new state bureaucracy could be created or funded to deal with this problem in the near future. However, he said that the state should have legislation ready for when the funding does become available.

Draxler brought forth "Concurrent resolution on certification of compressed natural gas vehicles" (H.R.C. 001), a House resolution that would ask U.S. Congress and the Obama administration to change the EPA's system for certifying new CNG engine blocks and conversion kits. The resolution has passed both the state House and Senate, and is ready for the governor to sign into effect.

Gov. John Huntsman also proposed a plan to create a CNG infrastructure in the state. His plan calls for the creation of a corridor of CNG fuel stations that would allow people driving CNG vehicles to refuel their cars without going out of the way to find a CNG pump.

Here in Logan, the only two places where people can get CNG for their vehicles is at LW's Truck Stop, and at the USU motorpool, according to Tammi Godfrey. USU’s motor pool does require that people apply for a state fuel card.

"When I see EPA, I think it could only mean environmental procrastination agency," said Matt. Many people in Web communities such as and seem to reflect Matt's feelings of frustration with the EPA.

Boone Pickens, founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, has proposed Pickens' Plan, which is aimed at ending dependence on foreign oil. While the proposed plan focuses on using a wide variety of alternative fuels, the plan suggests that in the West, where natural gas is plentiful, CNG be used as one of many ways to reduce foreign oil consumption. More information can be found that Pickens' plan web site.

“We have a ton of natural gas here in the West, and here in Utah," said Draxler. "If we have an abundant source of fuel, and it doesn’t pollute, and saves people money, I thought, why are we not doing this?"


Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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