​NATSO: Travel Center Operators Play Key Role in Expanding Alternative Fuels

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Travel center operators play a key role in expanding alternative fuels, according to NATSO, the trade association of America's travel plaza and truckstop industry. 

Policies and incentives that encourage existing travel center operators to invest in alternative fuels represents the most effective way to encourage consumers to transition to those fuels, a NATSO representative from Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores told a House panel on Oct. 23. Current policies have prompted fuel retailers such as Love's to invest in electric vehicle charging, natural gas, hydrogen and biodiesel.

JP Fjeld-Hansen, vice president and managing director of Musket and Trillium, Love's' supply, trading, logistics and alternative fuel arms, testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change that leveraging existing infrastructure and refueling sites coupled with policies that make it profitable for such businesses to invest in alternative fuels is the most effective way to bring alternative fuels to market.

"In the current political and policymaking landscape, it is tempting to focus solely on how we want the world to look in 10, 20 or 30 years. By building on existing policies and infrastructure, we can improve the transportation sector's emission footprint in the short term while also considering more long-term solutions," Fjeld-Hansen testified. "Once a regulatory and incentive system is in place that makes alternative fuels cost competitive — whatever the fuels may be — the private sector will bring those fuels to market most effectively."

Fjeld-Hansen highlighted recent partnerships between Trillium and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as well as Miami-Dade County in Florida to construct and operate compressed natural gas refueling stations. Combined, they serve more than 2,200 transit buses.

Additionally, among its many alternative fueling projects, Trillium also designs, builds and operates heavy-duty hydrogen refueling stations to run public transportation buses.

Fjeld-Hansen also encouraged lawmakers to prohibit regulated public utilities from using rate payer dollars to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Allowing public utilities to unfairly compete against the private sector by utilizing rate payer dollars to make such investments will effectively destroy the incentive for private sector investment, he testified.

"This is precisely what public utilities are trying to do right now in a number of states throughout the country," he said. "If they are successful, it would not only preclude companies such as Love's from participating in that market, it would cement in place stagnant technologies and fueling solutions that at the end of the day will not get consumers what they want."

Fjeld-Hansen's testimony can be found here.

Founded in 1960, NATSO represents the industry on legislative and regulatory matters; serves as the official source of information on the diverse travel plaza and truckstop industry; provides education to its members; conducts an annual convention and trade show; and supports efforts to generally improve the business climate in which its members operate.