States push for more natural gas powered vehicles

America’s Natural Gas Alliance is holding a transportation summit in Ohio today. The summit is focused on finding ways to encourage the development of compressed natural gas vehicles and low emission fuels. The summit is modeled after a similar summit held by Ohio Governor Kasich in the state last year; Ohio has significant cache of natural gas in its state and is looking for ways to utilize the resource locally. The summit is happening at the same time as another initiative sponsored by the governors of Oklahoma and Colorado, with the participation of 21 other states to increase the availability of these vehicles. So far, the effort has seen bids from car dealerships in 28 states.

As CivSource has reported, there are a variety of initiatives underway to increase the use of energy efficient vehicles. One of the bigger projects launched last year fostered the creation of an electric highway in several states, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Wind power is also growing as a new source of power for the nation’s electrical supply. However, natural gas, one of the most plentiful and low-cost fuel sources in the US has seen little domestic adoption.

Energy financier T. Boone Pickens has been arguing for the use of natural gas as a bridge fuel to alternative energy for several years, including a failed effort to get some action from Washington on the issue. Despite that, it seems states are beginning to move toward the fuel as energy costs rise. Last week, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced a billion-dollar energy reform plan for his state which includes a provision to put more households on natural gas. In addition, many states are looking at ways to grow the use of compressed natural gas vehicles.

The initiative launched by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Colorado Govovernor John Hickenlooper will move their states and 21 others to compressed natural gas vehicles for all state vehicle fleets. The plan is significant as states have been working through a variety of fleet vehicle sharing plans in order to cut energy costs – this would bring those costs even lower by reducing dependency on $4/gallon gas. A CBS News report shows that the national average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.78 compared to $1.35 for the gallon equivalent of natural gas.

According to Governor Fallin, her state replaces as many as 700 vehicles per year, and many of the state vehicles have over 100,000 miles on them. The compressed natural gas vehicle plan would phase in the energy efficient cars as the older cars cycle out. Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Honda all have compressed natural gas vehicles available.

Pennsylvania also announced that it is getting in on the initiative and will hold a seminar on October 16, 2012 for state fleet vehicle officials to learn more about compressed natural gas vehicles. The state recently passed Act 13 of 2012, which authorized DEP to create and implement a Natural Gas Energy Development program to distribute up to $20 million in grants over the next three years to help pay for the incremental purchase and conversion costs of heavy-duty natural gas fleet vehicles.

“With all of Act 13, but with this program in particular, Governor Corbett and the legislature have captured for us the tremendous opportunity we have with our own home-grown natural gas to displace OPEC as the primary fuel supplier for Pennsylvania’s and America’s vehicles,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “These seminars will inform local governments and businesses about how they can do their part in making America energy-secure by taking advantage of a fuel found right here in Pennsylvania that is abundant, clean-burning and inexpensive.”

GE and Peake Fuel Solutions, an affiliate of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, today launched the CNG In A Box(TM) system, which allows easier adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling options for gas stations at a convenience store trade show in Las Vegas. According to the companies, a vehicle fleet operator that uses the CNG In A Boxsystem for natural gas fueling instead of traditional gasoline fueling can save about 40 percent in fuel costs. The CNG In A Box system compresses natural gas from a pipeline into CNG on-site at a traditional automotive fueling station or industrial location. CNG-powered vehicles such as taxis, buses or small trucks, as well as individual consumer vehicles, can then refill their tanks using a dispenser with the same look and feel as a traditional diesel or gasoline dispenser.

“Natural gas is produced at a relatively lower cost and is cleaner burning than gasoline or diesel fuel–natural gas vehicles can show an emissions reduction of up to 80 percent compared to gasoline vehicles,” said GE ecomagination Vice President Mark Vachon in a statement on the new product.