Running on gas, natural that is…

Thus far we’ve had the pleasure of cruising in cars all around Cochabamba and into the countryside. I look out my passenger window and admire the Andes, the adobe houses, sheep, and cholitas walking down the streets with their stuffs strapped to their backs. After a while in the backseat I get a little sleepy and begin wondering about that gas smell. When I ask, I’m told that the car is running on natural gas. Ah, that’s why I feel like I’ve been shut up next to a gas stove.

Cochabamba is a large city in a valley with over 900,000 inhabitants scooting around on and in their motor bikes, Japanese cars, multi-colored public jitney buses and ‘trufis’ (microbuses). Thats a bunch of people zipping through the city’s many round-abouts and by ways. If this were Mexico, that would also mean a great deal of exhaust, but its not. Here in Bolivia the cars and buses run mostly on natural gas.

Your typical gas stations service both gasoline and natural gas and I must tell you the lines for the natural gas are much longer. The cars here are outfitted to run on both gasoline and natural gas. Cochabamba, a fairly flat city in a very large valley is a perfect place to drive a car/bus with natural gas. If someone were to drive up into the mountains they would need to switch over to gasoline. Natural gas combustion can power a car in a flat region easily and goes farther that a gasoline engine. Its cleaner, cheaper and more efficient. Imagine!

So this morning we disembarked the hotel for a trip out to the campos to see a construction project of Amizade as a possible service project for students. Raul, who has worked for Amizade for 15 years planned to take us to his village to see the project. We piled into Raul’s trufi and made a pit stop at a gas station. What’s different about running on natural gas is that everyone must leap out of the car when filling up with gas.

“What? Will the car explode,” I said in jest.

“Possibly,” replied Jean Carla.

So I asked, “Then what’s the difference when your barreling down the highway?”

“It’s when the natural gas is pumped into the car. The transfer could blow,” she answered.

Inside or outside the car, what’s the difference? We’re all a goner then! Oh well, you only live once. Might as well try to do it in a more environmentally conscious way.

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