By Andrew Littlefair on

In the hyper-competitive world we live in, companies are constantly looking for an innovation or an approach that will offer them a market advantage over their competitors, both foreign and domestic.  For years – and much to the dismay of large segments of this nation’s heavy manufacturing sector – we witnessed this very phenomenon as jobs and industries left the U.S. in search of lower wage workers and cheaper input costs overseas.

As a net importer of petroleum for decades, the United States found itself on the losing side of this equation, as the price of both wages and energy imports made the cost of producing goods and services here more expensive than elsewhere.  Thankfully, the emergence of natural gas – which is not only abundant, but cleaner and cheaper than petroleum – has helped return a good share of the competitive advantage to the U.S. and is paving the way for a New American Century.

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What does this look like in the real world business environment?  Jobs are coming back to the U.S, with companies like General Electric actually returning manufacturing jobs to the U.S. from China and Mexico.  GE’s Jeff Immelt is right, the Big Idea of 2014 is natural gas.  Parts of jet engines that once were being made overseas are today being manufactured in Batesville, Mississippi.  Earlier this year we opened an innovative CNG fueling station in New Hampshire to serve manufacturing facilities, hospitals and other energy-intensive customers with compressed natural gas fuel.  The result: cleaner and more cost-competitive operations.

U.S. companies that are converting their fleets to natural gas are seeing immediate savings in fuel costs, which average up to $1.50 per gallon less than gasoline and diesel.  These fuel savings have not only greatly reduced the cost of doing business for American companies, but have also sparked a domestic natural gas vehicle market, which today includes about 30 different manufacturers who produce 100 models of light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles and engines.

American companies have also made a major commitment to sustainability, and in a market where margins are slim and every penny counts, once again natural gas has provided the smart, and viable, path forward.  Natural gas vehicles emit up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas than gasoline or diesel vehicles.  Our Redeem renewable natural gas product takes this reduction even further, yielding up to a 90 percent greenhouse gas reduction.  By migrating their fleets to natural gas vehicles, major companies have capitalized on the inherent advantages of natural gas – both in cost and environmental footprint – and are more competitive than ever.

For example, Procter & Gamble’s commitment to sustainability was showcased when it became one of the first large shippers to convert a significant portion of its for-hire truckloads to natural gas.  UPS doubled its carbon intensity goal for 2020.  For the second straight year, the company in 2013 delivered more packages while reducing its emissions 1.5 percent from a year earlier.

In the business world, uncertainty is never a friend and can often result in the contraction of businesses that might otherwise have been looking to grow.  Historically-low U.S. natural gas prices and increased domestic natural gas supply have created a de-coupling of oil and natural gas commodity prices.  For U.S. companies that have converted all or a portion of their commercial fleets to natural gas, this means they can reliably plan on a long-term supply of competitively-priced and abundant natural gas…even as oil prices continue to rise.

The trajectory of the natural gas for transportation business has truly been remarkable.  In 1997, Clean Energy (CLNE) had but three fueling stations and a repair truck.  Today, we’re serving customers in 41 states and Canada, and in over 20 countries where we’re selling compressors and related technology.  We’ve continued to innovate and push the industry to better serve our customers by putting forth a positive, responsible and cost effective growth path for American business.

We are rolling into this New American Century having been dealt a winning hand of cards: An abundant, clean, domestic and reliable fuel source that will not only bring jobs home from abroad but create new ones here as cost savings pushes technological invention.
The road ahead is exceptionally promising for American business.