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  • Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat


    My name is James Orsulak, I am Clean Energy’s Colorado Sales and Marketing Manager. I was invited to join the forum in an effort to hopefully provide some insight into the company, what we do, and why. My plan from here on out is try to get on the forum once a week to try and answer questions and take recommendations that might be posted and to give updates on developments in the industry. If you live in Denver and you dig CNG, I’ll take you to lunch, if you ski, let’s strap some skis to my GX and head up.

    I began by browsing through all of the forums and postings on the site. I took notes and am going to make this first post is going to be a whopper (two sections) but I hope it will be a reference guide for commonly asked questions. Many of you have some very negative opinions of the company. These seem to primarily stem from our fuel pricing in your area. Hopefully I can address some of those concerns.

    About me: I manager all our sales activities in the State of CO. I may not have answers to all your questions. Clean Energy is not perfect and we are certainly experiencing some growing pains. If I do not have an answer, I will tell you so and go and try and find an answer for you. Also, please feel free to use me as a resource; we have tons of info every part of the industry. I am happy to help in any way I can.

    I will start by posting some answers to common questions.

    The Company: founded in 1997 by Boone Pickens, the big guy is no longer involved too much with the company. He sits on our board, but is not our chairman. He is very busy, very nice, very charitable, and brilliant when it comes to energy matters. He does not own our company, although he does own a good deal of stock. We do. Every employee of CE owns stock in the company, along with several thousand other Americans. It is an American company and we believe NGVs are the future and we will fight hard to ensure that is the case. We also believe there is a lot of money to be made in this industry, as Americans we also have a desire to be insanely wealthy. I know I do. The sales staff works very hard at marketing the use of CNG and LNG to fleets. While we certainly have a growing consumer base, we have never tried to be a consumer fueling company. Every one of our sales people focuses only on fleets. Clean Energy provides customized alternative fuel fleet solutions. That is what we do. Our targets are geographically based or return to home fleets: airports, taxis, shuttles, trash trucks, buses, delivery trucks, port trucks, etc. We try with every new station to have a public access portion or order to expand the available refueling infrastructure. The sales staff is twice as crazy about NGVs as many of you; they eat, sleep and breathe CNG. They are out pounding on the doors of fleets everywhere preaching the clean, affordable, abundant, American story of natural gas for vehicles. Their job is to get fleets to use existing stations and primarily to convince large fleet to make a huge commitment of vehicles in return for a new fueling station. Our model is simple, you buy a whole bunch of NGVs, and we will do all the work for you, jump through any hoop you want and turn ourselves upside down to make sure you have a good experience. There are a lot of objections, and barriers to entry, clean energy has evolved to remove these. There is a huge mental change for a fleet to make to ensure success and it’s tough, many people just do not want to do the work. Change is hard for these old diesel guys especially. We write grants for them, finance their vehicles, explain the tax incentives, file the tax incentives, spec the stations, procure their vehicles, and then the real work begins: making sure they have a good experience with NG and will use it forever. We love this fuel as much as you guys do, believe me. We practice what we preach, we all drive NGVs and most of our spouses drive NGVs.

    The $100 deposit for non-credit card (CC) stations: this is a security deposit, plain and simple. We did not used to have this in place and we got burned. It came about because the system charges the CC or debit card on file the following business day for a transaction. We had numerous instances where a person would charge a bunch of fuel and then cancel the CC. We then had to track them down or take them to small claims court. So we implemented the $100 fully refundable deposit and it has worked. I know it’s a pain and we are hoping to eventually have every station with CC access, but in the meantime this is what we are working with.

    CC Access: It was brought up in a few of the postings we acquired several of our current sites from other smaller companies or utilities, which we did. If they did not already take CCs we have to use the CE card until it gets upgraded. And unfortunately we do not just upgrade everything, we wait until our sales force can put enough volume on it to justify the new $10K card reader. This is just the way it is, no upgrades until we get the old sites up to certain minimum volumes. Many of us do not completely agree with this, but it is the way it is. Once we get some decent volume on the site, we refurbish it, add CC access, sometimes a canopy and it becomes a “real” CE site. But it’s up to the sales guys to get people using it again. And a lot of these sites are not exactly profit centers; they are barely hanging on when we pick them up. We are working on it and we hope to have every single station in the US and Canada on CCs in the near future. This will also eliminate the deposit issue.

    To be continued in part II

  • #2
    Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

    Fuel Pricing: This seems to be where most of the negative comments come from: why are CE sites so expensive? The fact of the matter is, you will always pay a premium at a CE station. Same reason you pay a premium for Mercedes, it’s nicer. We put a lot of money into our new sites. I am speaking generally here when I say this (I know we have some less than stellar sites out there) but CE sites are nicer, they are more reliable. If you look at a new CE site in Southern CA and an ONG site, there is an inherent difference, one is NGV past, and one is NGV future. Some of the new sites are down right sexy. They are the supermodels of the industry. The second reason is, we are a private company, and we are trying to make the CNG industry as profitable as possible. We are hoping to attract investment in the company and the industry. It is not reasonable to compare us to utility CNG networks, we are very different. I know for a fact that ONG loses money on their CNG program. They literally provide it as a service, it is not a core business and we believe the industry suffers because of that. It is not the fault of ONG; they just don’t invest the manpower, money and time to make something of it. And why would they, it’s not their business. Finally, we are not “lining our pockets” with this premium fuel price. I can guarantee that because we still have not turned a profit, look at our financials. What I can guarantee is that money is being re-invested in the industry and the company. The lobbying activities at the federal level, same activities that got the VEETC fuel credit and all the conversion credits are heavily funded by CE, and it expensive. We built a $65 M LNG production facility to provide fuel for the 15,000 port trucks and buses in CA, expensive. We are like any other US company; we seek to strike a balance between profit, margin, volume and value. And our experiments have shown that if we can provide CNG at a $.50-$.80 discount to gasoline, people will buy it and we can drive profits for those sales back into the industry, and we do.

    Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs) and Conversions: I saw a few mentions of the “why cant CE and Boone just force the auto guys back in” man that would be awesome. I wish. We have approached the OEMs time and time again, both in the US and abroad and here is the skinny. Until we can show them 10,000 conversions of a particular vehicle each year they don’t care and they are not coming back. But we will still try, believe me. What I can tell is that the conversion industry is getting better and has caught the eye of some major investors. I’m not talking about CE here but rather the Small Volume Manufacturers (BAF, Baytech, Eco, etc.) and there may be some exciting stuff happening soon. We are working on ways to make these conversions better and much less expensive (who wants to do a conversion that costs more than the car). And we are lobbying the EPA with some other strong partners to bring the cost of certification down and open up the market a bit. There are also some Asian and European upfit companies that are eyeing the US market, waiting for the outcome of our work with the EPA. It takes time, but look for the SVM products to hopefully get better, cheaper and available on more new types of vehicles. On the heavy duty front, OEMs are adding new stuff left and right, new buses, trucks, etc. are coming online soon and there is also a new OEM taxi company called Standard Taxi that will be offering an OEM CNG taxi.

    Monopoly Practices & Competitors: CE is kind of a Monopoly, but not by choice, we don’t want to be. I wish I had someone to compete with us, but we don’t. Right now it is pretty tough just competing with diesel fuel and gasoline. A competitor would be wonderful though. But a competitor has to come in and not just say “I can build you a station” they have to actually compete and go in and have the resources to persuade huge fleets to buy hundreds and thousands of NGVs and support them in their transition. We have almost 200 people on board now and a sales staff of almost 50. Our current competitor (Pinnacle and Trillium) have about two people selling this stuff. That’s not competing. Building a CNG station is easy, but competing with CE is not. Everyone at CE wishes we could walk in the door of a transit agency with 1000 buses and they would say “well, we are definitely going CNG, but I can’t decide which company to use” doesn’t happen. We have to pry them kicking and screaming off of diesel. We don’t just sell CNG or LNG, we sell a solution. CNG should sell itself, but that is just not the case. Hopefully the US market will eventually attract the attention of European and South American infrastructure providers, and when it does we will beat them up too. And some day we might go to South American, (first station under construction in Central America in Peru, awesome) and Europe and Asia. And it will be nice to be there one day and have some real competition. We’ll kill em. It’s tough out there and we will never apologize for being successful.

    So that is the start of the post, huge as it is, I hope it answers some of you questions and I’m sure there will be lots more. We have found a business model that works and we will stick to it. Ask any fleet what them most stable and reliable part of the NGV industry is and CE will always be the answer. This industry will be huge and we plan to be industry leader. Yes we are expensive, but we think we have a reason to be. Yes, a competitor would be great; we think so too, that way we have someone’s butt to kick. No, we are never going away, we believe in this technology way too much to ever hand in the towel. It really is a great company, run by very smart people; we have loyal employees and a wonderful staff. We are not perfect, we have a lot of problems and we are working hard to correct them. I ask for your help in this regard. Help us get better.


    • #3
      Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

      Welcome to the board James and thanks for the introduction to CE. I'm looking forward to more points and concerns from some of the members of this site and your responses.

      CE's corporate office is actually my neighbor, I live just down the street from them
      Last edited by c2sox; 03-13-2008, 09:36 PM.


      • #4
        Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

        James, welcome. Thanks for bringing up some important points. I do agree with you, it isnt like there is a NGV at every house and at every job site.

        It will take everyone, those of us who use NGV and those who sell.

        Of course, as a consumer, I prefer to have the lowest possible price. Just being 50 - 80 cents less is hard to convince people that it is worth the effort to make the jump.

        Thanks for joining.


        • #5
          Good to have you onboard

          A hearty welcome from the innkeepers to our newest guest.
          We all appreciate your insightful comments.

          I think CE could use our grass-roots support in various government and other initiatives just as much as we need your infrastructure so let's try to work together for the common good.


          • #6
            Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

            After reading that self-serving "screw the customer" diatribe, all I can say is ...Thank God Clean Energy has not gotten into Utah!

            CE wants to price its CNG a few cents below gasoline (translation: monopolistic price gouging) with no relation to the actual cost of natural gas. They represent the worst of corporate irresponsibility to us, as customers; they apply an unfair and distorted worldwide cartel-priced oil manipulation scenario when it does not apply in any way to natural gas. Worse than Chavez and as bad as Enron as far as I'm concerned.

            Truth is, with the loss in power and lower mileage due to CNG's lower fuel value, Id just as soon use gasoline in my bi-fuel pickup on trips when CE is the only alternative. Gasoline is a lot easier to find, and not that much more expensive than CE's inflated prices, when you take the losses in efficiencies and inconvenience of driving extra miles to find a station for each "partial 3000 psi" fillup.
            Last edited by rtry9a; 03-14-2008, 10:15 AM.


            • #7
              Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

              I second that notion rtry9a.

              I'll do the math for you. I have a Cavalier that gets about 27 miles per GGE on CNG. If I were to pay $2.20/GGE for CNG ($0.80 less than gasoline at $3.00/gal). I would spend $11.00 on a 5 gal fillup. I would get 135 miles on that fillup. If I had a car that gets 40 miles per gallon on gasoline. I would spend $10.13 on a 3.375 gallon fillup to go the same 135 miles. It is a no brainer -- just buy a fuel efficient vehicle. Heck, even the VW Jetti TDI that runs on desiel has more cost savings than my CNG car if I were to fill up at a CE site. The Jetti gets 48 MPG.

              Now I can see why the big three OEMs (Chevy, Ford, and Dodge) are concerning themselves more with fuel efficiency than alternative fuels (especially CNG). Who do they go to for information on CNG? Could the answer be Clean Energy? If Clean Energy is telling the OEMs the cost of CNG is only $0.50 - $0.80 lower than gasoline, then it is a no brainer for the OEMs to just produce vehicles that are more fuel efficient on gasoline? That way you don't have to get involved in building a whole new infrastructure of filling stations.

              Please correct my way of thinking...
              Last edited by Highmarker; 03-14-2008, 10:13 AM.
              Mountain Green, Utah
              2003 CNG Cavalier
              2003 CNG Silverado 2500HD


              • #8
                Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                Welcome James, we are happy to have you guys, thanks for coming. Some people here hate you guys, but some of us think your great.


                • #9
                  Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat


                  And you guys are doing a great job here in NM, I met your new local albuquerque rep at a clean citeis meeting (Blake I believe). Very nice guy. We are glad to have you here in the land of enchantment. Our CNG market is in desperate need of some help.


                  • #10
                    Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat


                    Obviously you don't agree with out growth strategy, and you are certainly entitled to your opinon, there are certainly people at CE who agree with you. We actually did discuss a partnership with Questar several years ago, but neither CE nor Questar found it worthwhile to pursue. Questar had a very good handle on the NGV infrastructure (quite impressive actually for a utility, my hat goes off to them), but the network did not have enough users or fuel volume for an aquisition. So for now you are safe from our prying eyes.

                    What does suprise me is that there are very few major bus or trash fleets in the state. Not even in Salt Lake. It is all small volume consumer sales. I would have thought with your Governor driving a CNG SUV, the transit folks and trash companies would be all over it. But no dice.

                    And in regards to the "lower power and lower mileage", I can tell you many of the new conversions have addressed these issues. I currently have a converted BAF Mercury Marquis in my fleet (2007) and a 2006 15 Passanger van. The Marquis has 13 GGE on board and gets 280 miles to the fill, so about 21 miles per GGE on average. Much better than the older fords. The van has actually been our star demo unit. Supershuttle has been testing the unit, it has 20 GGE of storage on board and gets 310 miles on a 3600 psi fill. which is 15 miles to the GGE. Their gasoline vans are only getting 13. And all that on low methane content metro denver fuel.

                    We also have the first reports from diesel vs NG testing in refuse trucks in CA. Waste Management ran CNG side by side with diesel for a month and tracked fuel consuption. CNG had a 7% advantage over diesel, which is the first time in history I have seen that. (New Cummins ISL G 320 HP CNG). So the technology is indeed getting better.

                    Now we just have to get it down to a resonable cost.

                    All my best to the Utah folks, keep up the great work out there. I hope to get out there for a ski trip next year and I plan to come check out your stations.


                    • #11
                      Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                      Hi James and welcome.

                      As you already know most of us and not real pleased with CE pricing. Just staying $0.50 to 0.75 below gasoline is fine until the price of gasoline starts hitting $3.00 and above. What I'd like to see is a sliding scale. When gasoline moves towards $4 and above widen the range. Personally I'd like to see CE stay in the $2.50 to $2.60 range tops unless the cost of Natural Gas moves up more than it is now. Even at $2.50 your close to pushing us toward home refueling. If you raise the price to $3.00 and above then home refueling will be the only way that makes sense.

                      It also seems to me that your costs would be less if you only had to charge our CC's once a month. Why not have a "PrePaid" CE card that gives us a discount? Charge our CC at the start of the month enough to keep the CE card at a given level. That level can be based on the prior months usage with $10 or $20 on top of that. I.E. Give us closes to fleet pricing as you do for new Honda Owners.

                      The $100 deposit! Why not only hold on to the deposit for a year tops. After a year you know if the customer is a flake. Heck, six months should be enough.



                      • #12
                        Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                        I too am glad to have CE represented here. John and I have worked to build a real community here. Sometimes the community has neighbors in it your not crazy about... but so do families, and that's (more or less) what we are. We're married, like it or not.

                        I appreciate the effort you put into answering everyone's gripes, and I understand CE's position from a buisness perspective. I'ts also quite clear that the consumer is a negligable factor that CE isn't overly concerned with. Fleets are where the money is and public is where the grants are.

                        Our position in the grand scheme of things is hardly worth your time, which makes me appreciate you efforts all the more. The public is relagated to buying obsolete GSA sell-offs and new Honda Civics. We don't represent a large enough contingent of the market to give a damn whether we are happy or nurtured into becoming a factor... yet.

                        Since I built my own station, and I know how the money portion of that works, it would appear that the consumers that CE supplies are paying for all of your other efforts. I guess it's the only way to grow your business... on our backs.

                        I't great that we can pay for the lobbiest that works for our incentives. But it's too bad that CE can't just tap all the gov't and private money that exists in huge pockets to pay for virtually every thing else you do. Developing new vehicles for the market, sponsoring programs that grow the market, buying up fadeing infrastructure and rebuilding it, and the list goes on... but wait, aren't you already doing that?

                        Grants and private investment is almost limitless right now for energy and R&D programs. I'd be very surprised if CE wasn't creating the state and federal programs that they are tapping to pay for the projects and expansion that they are undertaking.

                        Now you over-inflate the price of fuel, collect the federal refund on the fuel (that CE created to benefit CE) and have the stations paid for by Clean Cities funding, AQMDs, states and the feds with tax credits... That sounds like big oil to me.

                        I just can't figure out how, with so much money available for the asking, and your prices at the pumps (where you can get away with it), you're not putting money in both pockets with both hands.

                        I realize it's easy to spend more than you make without really trying, but that's the result of trying to do too much at one time. You're not trying to grow the industry, you're trying to be the industry... I get it... big oil, cng style.
                        Here's the plan gang, if you can't beat them, join them.
                        Everyone buy as much CE stock as you can. If I'm not mistaken, they pay dividends... or will. That's the only way you'll get any of your money back from the stations.

                        Besides, if your great grandparents had bought oil stock back in the day you'd be where Pickens is now, not here with us. This is our chance to jump on the band wagon.


                        • #13
                          Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                          Originally posted by Clean Energy - CO View Post
                          Obviously you don't agree with our growth strategy...
                          You got that right... I just have to ask what growth strategy you refer to? As your history suggests, CE is only interested in moving into monopoly situations where competition is not encouraged, mostly through legal restrictions. Questar will kick your ass in Utah and Wyoming area where they actually serve the public. Hopefully, Questar will provide a good working model for utilities to follow in other localities.

                          Your "marketing plan" destroys financial incentives for the new corporate entities who have to justify initial capital investments, less so with your victims, the government funded agencies who prey on our tax dollars. A company is better served installing their own fleet pumping station, bank the Federal tax credits themselves, and use a CE pump only when no other choice exists away from home. I suspect a lot of enlightened companies will do just that as gasoline and diesel continues to rise over $4.00/gal this year.

                          The fuel price differential and fuel availability will drive growth in this new world more than regulations have in the past. The stronger bottom-down incentives are likely going to move to the popular ethanol and hybrid vehicles now that cng vehicles are harder to find, at least until the public demands increase from the bottom-up. That change has already has begun in the SLC area driven by 65-75 cent fuel. Utah is gobbling up most of the recently depreciated government fleet from around the country. Waiting lines are common these days at public cng pumps, as are folks asking questions.

                          Back to corporate growth strategy... Questar is a vertically integrated, diversified, strongly growing entity with a stock price near it's all time high, and it pays a dividend; CE stock has exhibited a marginal, news-driven, volatile pattern at best, currently near its historical low, and has not offered a dividend to date. You tell me, which is the stronger growth company with a vision to the future?


                          • #14
                            Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                            Curtis, you have done it again, surprised and exceeded my expectations...

                            You have made good valid points, of which I hope we get answers too!

                            And to this CE guy, why would I give up paying 1.58 @ Riverside city yard for 2.65 or so?
                            That's more than a dollar, it just doesn't make any sense...


                            • #15
                              Re: Clean Energy Represenative now available on CNGChat

                              That's so benevolent of CE to charge less for CNG than gasoline. But why? Why not charge $1 or $2 more than gasoline? You can do it -- you have a monopoly at 95% of your public stations (e.g. no other CNG stations within miles). Because it would give CE a bad name? CE already has a bad name with its current policy. You could charge $1,000,000 per gallon and then you'd only have to sell 1 gallon per month and wouldn't have to bother with all that pesky infrastructure and maintenance.

                              While I'm on the subject of large numbers, why does it cost $10,000 for a dispenser card reader for which the actual machine probably costs $500?
                              02 GX
                              01 GX
                              03 Crown Vic
                              06 GX
                              Home Fueler