It all started so innocently, with an idea, a wish actually. The wish was to ease my own pain and to help others ease their pain, the pain we all felt in our wallets, at the gas pumps. After a little research, the answer seemed so simple to me: I could convert vehicles to CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), a fuel that was not only cheap, but also clean, and it was a domestic fuel, from right here in America. We could use this wonder fuel to replace the foreign, expensive, polluting gasoline. The answer, the solution to the problem of “Evil Gasoline” was just to convert to CNG, i.e. find a car, find a CNG Kit, and install the Kit and problem solved.
I was a mechanic with 30 years experience, what could be so hard? It seemed like a simple solution, but was it? Well, as it turned out, it was not so simple. First of all, I found that no one in the United States was selling CNG kits to the public, and very few people in the United States had even done conversions. To me those problems seemed solvable. But then, I was introduced to another spoiler, a spoiler that loomed large and imposing like a giant on the horizon.
This giant spoiler was so insidious that at first he was viewed as a friend. This spoiler’s name was EPA, and it was another government agency. Yes, at first people looked to him as a friend. Who could not love someone who was for clean air? People soon found that along with the promised “Clean Air”, they also had to deal with his dark side: his yards and miles of red tape, government regulations and bureaucracy.
But of course, that’s always the way agencies work, they start with a good premise and then start spewing regulations. Regulations are the mother’s milk of all agencies. Red tape and regulations are how they thrive and survive, the more regulations they can create the more money they are allotted. In the case of CNG conversions we can thank the EPA and the Clean Air Act for most of the regulations relating to converting vehicles to CNG.
My idea that had started out as a wonderful dream was turning into a nightmare. The clean air in my vision began to turn dirty as this giant stood looming on the horizon.
Even facing these challenges I began to find others who shared my vision, others who were gathering in resources from around the globe. In a very short time CNG conversion kits became available, and vehicles began to be converted.
As those wanting to move the use of CNG forward were working and joining together so were those who stood with the giant. Our efforts were mocked and we were accused of wrong doing by the EPA “hardliners”. Those who stood with the giant shouted and called out a mantra. They often told a story and perpetuated the “EPA myth” that a CNG conversion was “illegal” if it was not EPA approved. These EPA “hardliners” were most often those who stood to gain the most from standing with the giant. They were companies who had invested a lot of money in and were installing “EPA Approved Kits”. These were Companies who toed the party line of “EPA or Die”, and wanted to require that all conversions be expensive and “EPA Certified”. They wanted everyone else to “feel the pain” that they had endured as they had purchased high priced “certified” conversion kits.
This myth and mantra were espoused on one of the more popular CNG forums. On this forum the rule was that any posts that didn’t support this “EPA or DIE” mantra would be punished. Their mantra included the idea that EPA imposed fines were coming, that non-EPA approved conversions were “illegal” and that non-compliant conversion shops would soon be fined and shut down.
This strong front made those that stood with the giant appear almost invincible. Many would-be CNG enthusiasts lost hope in CNG. Then, as the price of the evil foreign gasoline fell dramatically, the interest in CNG Conversions began to wane even more. As the pool of potential customers shrank there were fewer CNG conversions to go around. This situation caused some of the EPA Hardliner Shops to advise Local Law Enforcement to force everyone to accept their mantra of “EPA CNG conversions” or be denied a vehicle license renewal. This was accomplished by including “EPA Certification” as a pass or fail aspect of their annual Safety Inspection program, which every vehicle in the state had to pass. This rule could eventually cause 1000’s of recently converted CNG vehicles to be outside the law as their annual renewal dates rolled around. This was a nearly mortal blow to the fledgling CNG conversion industry. Even in their infancy, they had increased the number of CNG vehicles in the US by more that 3% in just a few months. Now it looked like they would be stopped in their tracks and perhaps even be punished for it!
It seemed like all might be lost. It seemed their darkest hour.
Now enters an unlikely hero, someone with vision, someone with the will to fight the EPA giant, someone who a little over a year ago didn’t even know what CNG was? His name was Jack (Jack the Giant Killer) and he was wielding the sword of truth. The truth Jack taught us is that anyone should be able to convert to CNG as long as it was safe and clean. He taught us that the EPA really has very little “actual” power or authority over CNG conversions. Jack informed us that the EPA regulations were purposely ambiguous and confusing and not enforceable because of their non-binding language. Jack took on the law enforcement inspection rules, he championed the CNG cause, and he went up against the EPA hardliner kings and won!
The legal rulings that resulted from Jack’s swing at those who stood with the giant have caused hope to be revived in the CNG community. The dreams and visions of converting thousands of vehicles to using cheap, clean, domestic CNG are bright once again!
Jim Younkin is a mechanic with more than thirty years experience in automotive repair. His passions include car racing, mountain climbing, ice climbing, and CNG conversions. He enjoys sharing his passions and connecting with other of like mind. See more about Jim at http://www.younkincng.com
email: email@example.com or 801-427-2284