Thursday, November 10, 2011
By Jay F. Marks, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is teaming up with governors of three other natural gas-producing states in an effort to make vehicles that run on compressed natural gas more readily available.
Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Pennsylvania on Wednesday confirmed their desire to buy functional and affordable natural gas vehicles for their state fleets.
Fallin said she and her fellow governors intend to commit to purchasing 5,000 natural gas vehicles a year to establish demand for such vehicles and spur carmakers to design and build a suitable CNG sedan.
“States have tens of thousands of fleet automobiles,” Fallin said, “and by partnering with car manufacturers to bring an affordable and functional NGV to market, we're helping the products and infrastructure for cleaner, more cost-effective transportation.
“This initiative has the potential to be a true ‘game changer' for both the automobile industry and the energy industry.”
The bipartisan effort was unveiled Wednesday during the Governor's Energy Conference at the Cox Convention Center. The conference was sponsored by the Office of the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy, Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business and the Karl F. and June S. Martin Family Foundation.
Fallin's announcement included a prerecorded video featuring Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
“Aggregating state and local vehicle purchases is a common sense way to close the price gap between traditional and alternative fuel vehicles,” Hickenlooper said.
“Developing markets for vehicles that run on natural gas — an abundant domestic fuel — can help reduce dependence on foreign oil, enhance air quality and showcase how states are leading by example to help tackle the complex energy challenges that our country faces,” he said.
T. Boone Pickens, a Holdenville native who is advocating CNG as an alternative to diesel for heavy-duty trucks, hailed Wednesday's announcement on Twitter.
“An example of great state leadership,” he wrote. “Washington, it's your turn to step up.”
The CNG agreement was made public Wednesday as part of the “Oklahoma First” Energy Plan, which Fallin called a comprehensive blueprint for the state's energy future.
The plan calls for increased energy efficiency efforts and continued development of renewable energy options such as wind power.
Fallin said the plan is meant to create jobs, increase state energy production and build new markets for Oklahoma natural gas.
Oklahoma Energy Secretary Mike Ming, who led development of the plan, said natural gas accounts for 81 percent of the state's production.
Oklahoma Sierra Club Chairman Charles Wesner praised the governor's plan for creating a “pathway” for Oklahoma to transition away from coal for electricity generation in favor of energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas generation.
“This plan is a good starting point for complying with the much-needed U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency) pollution safeguards that protect human health and the environment,” he said.