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Opinion: Going green with natural gas vehicles

Nick Kronsbein

Careful planning and strategic investments are a key part of any business strategy. They are also key to protecting the environment. UBCR, LLC., is a fully integrated transportation logistics company who has demonstrated the value of that proposition. Our strategic investment in compressed natural gas technology has taken our business from very good to great.

We doubled down on our commitment to the environment and to our employees, while also protecting Michigan’s environment and increasing our bottom line. Our switch to compressed natural gas has been a win for all, and is why federal policy makers need to extend the per gallon credit for vehicles that use compressed natural gas into the future and encourage other businesses to make strategic, alternative fuel, investments. This federal credit benefits small businesses like ours, as well as larger fleets, while reducing carbon emissions and improving the environment.

The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to rewrite rules that limit pollution from heavy trucks but that the EPA says slow the economy.

UBCR collects containers returned to retailers throughout the Lower Peninsula under Michigan’s bottle deposit law, so glass, aluminum and plastic containers can be efficiently recycled. The bottle deposit law has been a great boon to Michigan’s environment by decreasing the amount of trash on our roads and beaches, while significantly reducing landfill waste. In 2012, we took our businesses’ commitment to the environment even further by making a significant investment in converting our fleet of semi-trucks from diesel to compressed natural gas. The results have been outstanding for our business and the environment.

UBCR’s engines now run cleaner than traditional engines, resulting in lower emissions, and the technology continues to improve. The newest generation of engine was just released and provides a 90 percent reduction in pollutants over the current standard and is termed the near zero emission engine. UBCR is looking to incorporate those engines in the next fleet making what is already the most efficient deposit system in the country, that much more valuable.

Compressed natural gas is also safer for our drivers. Drivers no longer need to wear protective gear while fueling, and they don’t have to use a traditional double-clutch for a semi-truck, as these fleet trucks are fully automatic. As an added bonus, the vehicles are far quieter than diesel trucks.

We believe in the value of this investment, and the environmental benefits of compressed natural gas fleet vehicles. In fact, we believe in the benefits so strongly that our refueling stations are open to the public at our depots in Wixom and Grand Rapids. Businesses are more likely to invest in compressed natural gas equipment if fueling is accessible, and if there is an incentive to get them started.

As an industry, compressed natural gas is at a crossroad where many of us have made a significant investment in equipment and infrastructure. It is imperative for the long term viability of compressed natural gas and other alternative fuel solutions that the federal per gallon credit is extended now and for years to come.

UBCR is proud of our story and we are excited about the future and value of compressed natural gas vehicles. An extension to the alternative fuel credit will make the future that much brighter for all.

Nick Kronsbein is vice president of UBCR.