Evidence of meeting #33 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was bus.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • David Pascoe  Vice-President of Corporate Engineering, The Americas, Global Headquarters, Magna International Inc.
  • Russell Davies  Manager, Transit Fleet, Calgary Transit

10 a.m.

Vice-President of Corporate Engineering, The Americas, Global Headquarters, Magna International Inc.

David Pascoe

If I can say so, there are lots of other sources of natural gas. In the ocean, there's frozen methane pockets and that sort of thing that probably would provide many tens of years of additional supply if we were to tap into it. These are things that we have to look to in the future.

May 1st, 2012 / 10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

It's not economical to go get the natural gas. That reminds me of the tar sands—sorry, oil sands—when they first started, and at that point it was $30 a barrel to get it out of the ground and the price at the pump was $9 a barrel. They went ahead and did it anyway with a lot of government support, because the theory was, once we figure out how to do this, it will get cheaper. So now it's $9 a barrel to get it out of the ground, and it's $130 a barrel at the pump. So hurray for them. I guess the same could be true of the natural gas world, right?

10 a.m.

Vice-President of Corporate Engineering, The Americas, Global Headquarters, Magna International Inc.

David Pascoe

Sure it could, yes. The potential going forward is that it's almost a certainty that oil is going to continue to go up in price to the extent that the economy can tolerate it and absorb the new prices. We've made huge strides in natural gas over the last decade or so with the cost of extraction and stuff, to the extent that in terms of a dollar equivalent we're at about $11 a barrel for natural gas today. During this calendar year, it may go as low as $5 or $6 a barrel, and it's expected to remain relatively low for the foreseeable future, so it's an opportunity.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Adler.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Mr. Davies, I'm just curious, you mentioned earlier that you had looked at a number of other jurisdictions. Could you please just go through what your findings were in various other cities, like Boston and New York, etc., and what you learned, good and bad, from those experiences?

10 a.m.

Manager, Transit Fleet, Calgary Transit

Russell Davies

There's a big difference. I mentioned earlier on, in 2007 a new engine came out from Cummins Westport, so from a bus perspective that was a real step change in terms of performance and in terms of what people saw from CNG buses as a fleet. So for the older buses the performance was okay, fuelling times were never particularly quick, and the engine was so-so. It was okay, but we found that among agencies that were still using CNG and were using the newer engine, it was almost transparent to the operator the type of bus they were driving. In terms of reliability it was certainly comparable, and in terms of operating performance, it was comparable.

Probably the biggest lesson that we learned from speaking to all the other agencies was: don't convert. So really they were saying, don't take a diesel bus now and convert it to CNG; buy a bus that's CNG-ready from day one. The same was true for the facilities as well. Don't retrofit your facilities, build a CNG facility and give the project a chance to work.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Which of those jurisdictions that went to CNG told you not to convert? Which ones had that experience?

10:05 a.m.

Manager, Transit Fleet, Calgary Transit

Russell Davies

Do you mean who told us not to convert?

New York told us that the costs were very prohibitive. And there were a lot of unknowns. Particularly in Calgary Transit, all of our facilities are probably 30-plus years old. The older buildings meet with older building codes. To do a retrofit now to CNG would be a little problematic.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

They adopted CNG.

10:05 a.m.

Manager, Transit Fleet, Calgary Transit

Russell Davies

In New York they've taken an order of 200 CNG buses, just this year, I believe.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Okay. How were they funded?

10:05 a.m.

Manager, Transit Fleet, Calgary Transit

Russell Davies

I think the fact that they are willing to order these numbers, on top of their existing fleets, says that they're still comfortable with it.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Pascoe, maybe you could answer this. A number of people have commented to me that when they are looking for a new car, for example, they can buy a traditional gas car or they can go with diesel or they can go with natural gas or a hybrid. The deals on the hybrid or the diesel or natural gas aren't as good, and the costs tend to be higher. There is an offset in terms of what they would save on energy, but they pay more up front.

Could you comment on the cost prohibitiveness of that?

10:05 a.m.

Vice-President of Corporate Engineering, The Americas, Global Headquarters, Magna International Inc.

David Pascoe

Sure. The answer is that diesel and hybrid and natural gas all cost more to make, so the car companies are passing the costs on to the customer with the hope that the customer can connect the fuel savings with the on-costs. The numbers are significant. There's not a good way to absorb that, right?

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

If there is no demand out there, why have these sources of supply that we're calling for to be set up?