Robert H. Beatty Jr. invested 20 years in the natural gas company prior to he realized its value as an option to utilizing imported oil items to power automobiles. “For me, the pilot burner began eight or nine years ago, because I saw what we’re not doing in energy security,” said Beatty, founder and CEO of Jefferson County-based “O” Ring CNG Fuel Systems. His company started promoting using compressed gas, much of it pulled from Pennsylvania wells, and “as soon as we started down that path, we discovered a lot of like-minded individuals,” he said. “O” Ring recently opened its third CNG fueling station and is dealing with companies to convert truck fleets. Many insulation contractors who work on the stations are from Pennsylvania, and he refuses to utilize foreign products. Beatty, who passes “Bob,” serves in leadership roles with the not-for-profit Pittsburgh Area Clean Cities and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association. He spoke to the Tribune-Review about the market for CNG and his efforts to enhance its popularity. Trib: What got you into this part of business? Beatty: Both my daughter and son-in-law are active-duty military. I have actually viewed my daughter spend a dozen years of her adult life in the Middle East and Europe, and my son-in-law do the very same thing. You wake up every morning and ask yourself, “Why do we continue to support our opponents, when we don’t make the most of the resources under our own feet?” We’ve never ever been encouraged as a nation to explore all the alternatives because we constantly thought we ‘d have plentiful, low-cost oil. Trib: Is need for CNG growing? Beatty: I see a moderate, steady boost. Even with fuel cost change, the majority of the bigger fleets … all understand you can’t afford to be controlled by oil prices. Once they choose to decrease that path, they need to persevere. You can’t just head out and change 100 trucks with alternative fuel trucks and state, “Well, diesel fuel dropped, so I’ll return to diesel fuel.” They’re committed to that path. 3 years back, when I constructed a station, it took a year, year and a half to ramp up and pay and see sufficient business. We most recently opened a DuBois station. In the first 6 weeks, it’s increase to a volume equivalent with my very first station. They’re growing quicker. It’s becoming more extensively accepted. Trib: Is the answer still, “If you develop it, they will come”? Beatty: Part of the argument had long been the chicken or the egg. The automobile makers won’t construct automobiles since there aren’t sufficient fuel stations. Fuel station owners will not develop because there aren’t adequate automobiles. We have actually been at the same time working that effort. It’s talking with fleets that will certainly dedicate to going alternative, and building a fuel station in proximity to them, but also open it to the general public, and creating for room for development. That’s been our formula. You can’t pay for to be 3 years ahead of the market, however you can’t pay for to be six months behind. Trib: Where do you see development? Beatty: It’s not just regional. I see this growing countrywide. I have a specialist in Chicago who transports U.S. mail from Chicago to New York City. They move seven to 10 tractor trailers between those cities. They made a five-year commitment to convert their fleet and purchase CNG in Pennsylvania. I’m their midway point. … With the combination of over-the-road fleets and local fleets, now the person may say, “I’m going to buy a CNG pickup because I have places to sustain it.” Trib: How does that broaden beyond fleets to customers? Beatty: Right now, I’m a mix of over-the-road fleets, and local fleets, about 40 percent of each. Already, 20 percent of my company is regional individuals. People do it for all kinds of reasons. If you’re a commuter, you can save $400-$500 a month with an alternative fuel vehicle. Trib: Has the low price of gas had an influence on business? Beatty: Not really. My (retail) price is $2.35 a gallon equivalent. In all fuels, a huge portion of the price is state and federal taxes. We do not get a break. … We know our product cost. We know our expense of producing. The only two boosts I’ve had in the past two years were since the state tax increased. David Conti is a Trib Total Media staff author. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.See all stories on this topic California truck officers, state regulators clash over emission rules Not signed up with JOC.com? Produce an account now. Once signed up, read 5 short articles every thirty days totally free … See all stories on this topic
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