Sleeping in the pendulum clock

The funny battle against so-called zero-emissions vehicles

In Austria, we have a funny saying. When someone misses every opportunity that comes his way, we say that he sleeps in the pendulum clock. It’s a cute mockery of someone who has not seen something coming. Any normal person would have caught that half-asleep.

The sad part is, that in many situations, this is still the kindest way to describe a total lack of initiative. Individuals, companies, and industries are in a state of absolute and total complacency. The consequences of which they cannot seem to grasp.

This is the situation Natural Gas and its two fuel embodiments – CNG and LNG – find themselves in.

Seen at face value, things should be very different.

Do you want to go low- or no-emissions for your heavy transport? Then Methane-based fuels are your best bet.

And they can do it at every level of the value chain. And this without making the industry uncompetitive. Both, CNG and LNG technology are mature applications. They have decades of operational expertise under their belt. And this is at every level of the supply chain. 

Both are attractive alternatives that don’t break the bank. They pass the smell test against diesel on the cost and reliability front.

Methane-based fuels are not only clean. They have the potential to be emissions-free with very little extra technology. They will not break the bank and they are available right now.

Imagine a 40-ton truck that produces zero emissions. Imagine the heaviest diesel engines your mind can fathom. Imagine the biggest construction machines or mightiest road trains or ship engines. They run on Methane-based fuels as well as they do on diesel. And you won’t sacrifice on ease of use or range.

With bio-methane, that’s a possibility.

Hell, even SpaceX and Blue Origins’ new proposed rockets are running on LNG. We could see super low-emissions rockets hauling cargo and people into space soon.

That’s a match made in heaven wouldn’t you say? Would could oppose such a great thing?

As it turns out – many. And it’s an unholy alliance that’s collaborating here. Because diesel aficionados use the current zero-emissions hype. They want to prolong diesel’s monopoly on heavy transport.

How comes?

Both, Electric Trucks and hydrogen trucks are way too immature, expensive, and incapable. They cannot provide any reasonable, realistic, and immediate choice for a freight operator.

So, the question is not if it will be LNG but rather how fast the world wants to get away from diesel as a fuel. Right?


Because this game is not a game of what is – but rather what people chose to believe that could be.

Let me explain.

The two options battery and hydrogen are unobtainable right now. Yet, they pose as the Emerald City on the hill.

Anything that exists in those two sectors does so as a technology demonstrator only. Those vehicles are very far from normal transport duty in a truck pool. 

But imagine they would be an available choice right now. They still have range, cost, and availability issues. This makes them unfit for any commercial operations. Their only real purpose is as showpieces at auto salons.

That’s what the head tells us. So it’s Natural Gas again – right?

Still wrong.

Because many managers prefer to not do what feels like halfway right now. They wait for those pie-in-the-sky solutions to become available. They also wait for quite a drop in purchase-prices too.

And in the meantime – well – as there is no good alternative they want to stick it out with diesel.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to diesel as long as emissions rules are being observed for real. And I do understand those logistics managers – in their place, I would very likely have the same gut reaction. Who wants to dabble with expensive technologies? Who wants to risk breaking his business by using unfit technology?

Commercial actors in Natural Gas as a fuel – and especially LNG as a fuel – cannot afford to be complacent right now. They need to start driving the market. They need to build the market, to not shy away from hard discussions and issues. They need to push policymakers, potential customers, and the general public.

They need to show them not only the advantages LNG presents as a fuel. They need to make the case that there is no realistic alternative. Waiting will only make countries fail on their emissions target.

Companies in the LNG as a fuel industry are in a sweet slumber. I have a feeling that some of them trust that things will somehow sort themselves out.

But they won’t.

People need to understand that they pin their hopes on non-existing options. This will make their lives way more expensive as the price for those laboratory beasts will be borne by all. 

Look at Germany, the bellwether of the renewable movement. Their electricity prices are among the highest on the planet. Some people are switching the heating off. And in some cases, they freeze to death in winter because they can’t afford power anymore. All this despite a load of subsidies that would make anyone croak under the strain.

Transport companies will need copious subsidies for Electric Trucks and/or hydrogen. This would bust the budget soon and still, prices for wares would go up.

People need to understand this. They need to come to know that there is a price to pay for complacency. The industry needs to know that. Politicians need to know that they will lose elections. Because in time, people will find out that they have gotten the short straw once more.

Current organizations won’t do that. But LNG Europe will.

Image by Karl Allen Lugmayer from Pixabay

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