Moving in Circles
“Merry-go-rounds move, but wheels travel”
Some weeks back, I participated in a panel discussion at the Corporate Responsibility Officer CRO Conference in
1. FedEx vehicles, like most other commercial vehicles predominantly use diesel fuel, rather than gasoline or other alternative fuels like natural gas. Diesel usage has better fuel efficiency than these other fuels, which translates to lower carbon, or greenhouse gas, emissions as well. Any replacement fuel needs to improve the nation’s fuel economy from where we are today.
2. Passenger vehicles and light trucks predominantly use gasoline to a very high degree – the percentage is north of 90%.
3. To use natural gas vehicles, we, as a nation, would have to build a completely new fueling infrastructure for vehicle fueling.
4. To use natural gas vehicles, we, as a nation, would have to build a completely new natural gas vehicle population. And the infrastructure and the vehicle population present a “chicken-and-egg” scenario. Which comes first?
5. Even the installation of private fueling facilities for centrally-fueled fleet vehicles would require a public fueling infrastructure as backup. Why? Just consider that FedEx values service reliability. We must have the ability to power the vehicles that serve our customers. Without fueling backup, a facility with an inoperative fueling station would also have parked, non-operational vehicles – the worst kind of fuel economy.
6. Natural gas, like oil (which produces diesel fuel and gasoline) is a fossil fuel which emits carbon emissions when burned.
7. Natural gas, while plentiful within the
So, no matter that the fuel would be sourced locally in the
Well, natural gas certainly has a role in some centrally-fueled fleet vehicle applications like municipal buses. And, it’s clear that this can and should continue. But, there is a more holistic approach for the nation – one that can accomplish a two-fold purpose.
Put simply, we should “green” the power generation utility grid with renewable energy and electrify a substantial portion of surface transportation using hybrid electrics, electric and plug-in electric vehicles. This would lower the nation’s carbon emissions, improve our energy efficiency and help diversify our energy supply. Doing this would require only one new infrastructure – the “green” power generation utility grid – connected to our traditional electricity grid.
This “greened” energy infrastructure, combined with the existing diesel and gasoline network, could then be sufficient in meeting both our electricity needs and supporting transportation, rather than having to also construct a natural gas infrastructure – yet another fossil fuel network.
Oh, yes, about my quote at the start of the post: “Merry-go-rounds move, but wheels travel.” The point is that substituting one fossil fuel for another may mean we’re shifting our energy supply, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going anywhere.
Hear more about Mitch Jackson’s views on sustainability at the FedEx Multimedia Center.