If supply-and-demand were a dance, it might be The Funky Chicken: hard to tell if it’s an intricate set of moves or just a bunch of flapping around.
Think of the fidget spinner craze a few years ago. Sometimes the supply was able to keep up, and sometimes stores were wiped out of them.
Like with the chicken and egg debate, what came first: the supply or the demand? Did the fidget spinner people or social media create clever buzz? Did the craze suddenly and inexplicably just happen?
That’s how it seems to be going with the fuel that powers our vehicles.
People have made and destroyed their careers predicting trends, though we do seem to have reached a tipping point on alternative fuel. The news about it often shows the pulse of the development of hydrogen, of battery, of clean natural gas. And that news is growing in quantity and volume.
The supply-and-demand chicken dance around fuel is particularly funky. Example: in order for supply to meet demand, a number of things need to happen, including extraction, refinement, bulk delivery, and end-user purchase.
And in order for us to purchase alternative fuel, the fueling stations need to have the ability to sell it to us. That involves installing new or retrofitted pumps and charging stations.
The list seems to get longer for these alternatives.
The U.S. Department of Energy website hosts a map of 73, 192 alternative fuel station results for these categories: Biodiesel, CNG, Electric, Ethanol, Hydrogen, LNG, Propane, and Renewable Diesel. The map is searchable by category and shows the density and scarcity in different cities.
At least two of the larger travel stop chains, Pilot and Love’s, are putting serious money into upgrading their nationwide networks of fueling equipment, both of them investing $1 billion each into the renovations.
Even if clean natural gas is a transitional fuel, Pilot and Love’s and others understand, and are banking on, the public’s demand. It’s not so much prediction as it is best-guessing market trends.
Our crystal ball didn’t tells us this. The fidget spinner did.