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Cars running on natural gas clean Dhaka’s air but hurt climate

Rickshaws outnumber cars in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. But when you do see a car, chances are it runs on natural gas.

Tax breaks on car conversion kits and other government policies encourage switching from gasoline and diesel to compressed natural gas, or CNG. Nationwide, 200,000 vehicles use natural gas, ranking Bangladesh among the world’s leaders in CNG penetration.

The change has helped make Dhaka’s notoriously polluted air a bit less dirty, according to the environmental news site Green Car Congress. Reporting on a paper by researchers at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, the site notes that air quality improvements as a result of the CNG switchover have prevented more than 2,000 premature deaths in greater Dhaka. The switch also saved about $400 million in fuel costs since its 2010 launch.

But there’s also a significant downside to CNG: an increase in methane emissions, released during production, processing, storage and distribution. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. On balance, the researchers found the changeover to be a negative from a climate change perspective.

Other metropolises embracing CNG include Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Delhi, Mumbai and Karachi.

Green Car Congress

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