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i-e0418a159f7a765580874d5012faa289-sound.jpgAs they say, there’s nothing like travel to learn new and unexpected things.

Especially from cab drivers.

One of my ScienceBlog Sibs, Shelly, spends time talking with cabbies about earwax, but I seem to invite other kinds of lectures.

Often times, my driver are Sikhs. So perhaps you can guess the topics.

Can I have Indian religious holidays, for twenty, Alex?

And other times I learn about the challenges of adapting to life in the U.S.

But not yesterday.

After a short plane hop over the mountains, I got to listen to a cab time lecture on clean energy. We were having a nice chat about gas prices and my driver told me that gas prices don’t matter in his profession.


He said that all of the airport cabs in Seattle are powered by natural gas.

You mean “biodiesel”? (I always try to be helpful).

“No. All the Seattle taxis use natural gas. We’re required to do this by the Port of Seattle.”

But I’ve never heard of cars running on natural gas. I thought the only options were electricity, hybrids, and biofuels.

“Oh, no”, he said “Natural gas is clean and cheaper than gasoline. But it does cost about $4000 to convert a cab to use it.”

Is there another downside?” I asked.

“There aren’t many places to get it, so we can’t go very far. If someone needs a ride from the airport and it’s farther than Everett, we have to call another company.”

I came home and checked out natural gas autos on-line. I don’t know if fueling cars with natural gas is a more environmentally friendly option than hybrids or biodiesel fuels, but it’s certainly interesting, and least as far as I know, it seems to have slipped under the radar.

Maybe we ScienceBloggers need to get out more often.


  1. #1 Deepak
    September 22, 2006

    One of the saving graces for New Delhi in the past decade (in other words the pollution levels have gone from unbearable to only slightly above unbearable) was the mandating of natural gas in all buses. What I can’t recall is if the mandate extended to auto-rickshaws and taxis as well. I am not sure its better, but its definitely cleaner burning than gasoline.

  2. #2 rehana
    September 23, 2006

    Austin buses use natural gas. (Still a fossil fuel, so I don’t know how much difference it makes.)

  3. #3 Samir Seth
    September 25, 2006

    I thought (given the biological nature of this site) that you meant “crabs”. So I was a bit taken aback when I read the article!

    BTW, I have recently started reading your blog (after my interest in DNA was piqued by books like Genome and Selfish Gene). I think what you are tremendously useful to laypeople like us who want to understand more about this wonderful world that is opening up. I have tried out the tutorials you pointed to for Blast, and for the HIV virus – and it is a real education.

    On proteins though, I think some more background is needed to understand the biochemistry behind it. I have a science background (though I am now a software engineer), so I wonder if you can point me to some sites which would help to understand this better.

  4. #4 Sandra Porter
    September 27, 2006


    The natural gas that they use in cabs is methane. This is a renewable resource and there is a big advantage in terms of emissions. Natural gas produces far fewer toxic compounds and burns much more cleanly than gasoline.


    Thanks! I will write a bit more on proteins. In the meantime, you might check out the tutorials and educational materials at the Protein Data Bank.

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