This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Page 28n Thursday, June 14, 2012


W.Va. governor making natural gas vehicle push

By LAWRENCE MESSINA Associated Press


Virginia’s abundant natural gas supply has Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ready to or- der a cost-benefit analysis of switching at least part of the state’s vehicle fleet from gasoline and diesel, according to adminis- tration officials and those who have been asked to serve on the resulting task force. Tomblin plans issue an executive order

that also aims promote this alternative source among the public, said Rob Alsop, his chief of staff. “He thinks that given the price of nat-

ural gas and what looks like the long term development of the Marcellus Shale, this can become a resource for our fleet in- stead of depending on oil,” Alsop said. “It could help with job creation and lowering transportations costs in the state.” The task force is expected to include

top executives from gas producers and companies with such relevant holdings as service stations. “We’re interested in demonstrating

that we can improve our nation’s energy security, hopefully by converting at least part of the vehicular fleet in this country, starting here in West Virginia,” said Phil Reale of the state’s Independent Oil and Gas Association, among those asked to join the volunteer group. “We want to demonstrate West Virginia has vision and can lead the way in changing the energy sector of our economy.” Scott Rotruck, a Chesapeake Energy

executive and another task force member, called switching at least part of the fleet “an excellent first step in a broader move- ment that would change the way we all fuel our cars in the U.S.”

“The state has several large roles to

play, notably this time as a ‘market player’ with fleet conversion,” Rotruck said. Tomblin is also among 13 governors

who appealed to auto makers in an April 27 letter to help them jointly shift their fleets.

“It makes sense to start using fuels for our cars and buses that we produce

right here in West Virginia.” – W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

“A bipartisan partnership between

governors and auto manufacturers in the U.S. makes sense and has the potential to create new options for alternative fuel ve- hicles and transportation fuel diversity,” the letter said. It continued, “we are com- mitted to explore the aggregation of our annual state fleet vehicle procurements to provide an incentive to manufacture af- fordable, functional natural gas vehicles.” West Virginia has been part of a multi-

state push to encourage natural gas vehi- cles since at least January, when Tomblin announced a cooperative agreement dur- ing his State of the State address. Tomblin then also pledged to explore converting state vehicles to that alternative fuel. “It makes sense to start using fuels for

our cars and buses that we produce right here in West Virginia,” he said in that speech. “It is in America’s best interest, and we can lead the way.” The 13-state campaign includes neigh-

boring Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. West Virginia explored natural gas vehi-

cles in the 1990s. As part of partnerships with gas companies, Frank McCullough helped build a dozen or so compressed natural gas filling stations around the state as part of this effort. “You could literally drive throughout

West Virginia without running out of natural gas, if you knew where they were located,” McCullough said. The Kanawha Valley Regional Trans-

portation Authority converted some of its transit buses to natural gas during this 1990s experiment, said Doug Hartley, the authority’s assistant general manager. The concept failed to catch on. “Back then, to make this work, you

needed a lot of people converting,” Har- ley said. “I think we were just very much ahead of the curve.” After a few years, the transit author-

ity switched its buses back to conven- tional fuel, and the public fueling stations closed. “It was the classic, proverbial chicken-

and-the-egg problem, McCullough said. “How do you build stations to encourage people to go out and buy vehicles, and how do you get people to buy vehicles to encourage the building of stations?” But at least some things have changed

since the 1990s, McCullough said, includ- ing tax incentives meant to encourage such development. Both he and Rotruck also cited the significant difference in fuel prices. “Natural gas should maintain a long

term price advantage at the pump, being approximately one half the cost of gaso- line or diesel,” Rotruck said. The U.S. Department of Energy counts

around two-dozen alternative fuel sta- tions in West Virginia. Only one, a private facility operated by the FBI in Harrison County, offers compressed natural gas. Around 110,000 natural gas-fueled ve-

hicles travel on U.S. roads, out of 14 mil- lion worldwide, according figures from the Natural Gas Vehicles for America. The advocacy group says the U.S. vehicles include more than 11,000 transit buses, nearly 4,000 garbage trucks and more than 3,000 school buses. Supporters of the move toward natu-

ral gas include Bill Maloney, Tomblin’s Republican opponent in this year’s race for governor. A Morgantown drilling consultant and business owner, Maloney cited some of the U.S. vehicle statistics in a recent op-ed that called for converting state government vehicles.


Baton Rouge converting vehicles to natural gas

East Baton Rouge is attempting to go green, and it’s starting with its ve- hicles. Department of Public Works Di-


rector William Daniel said the city- parish is beginning the process of transforming its vehicles into a fleet that’s run by compressed natural gas. Natural gas is a less expensive al-

ternative fuel source to diesel and gasoline, and its harmful emissions are lower, Daniel said. “We can save money (on fuel

costs) and serve the people of the parish more efficiently by doing this,” Daniel said, noting that the switch is part of Mayor-President Kip Hold- en’s sustainability plan for city-parish government. The city-parish selected a consul-

tant, Professional Engineers Consul- tants Corp., to oversee the transfor- mation, Daniel said. The contract is still in negotiations and will go be- fore the council within the next few weeks. Next, the city-parish will seek re-

quests for proposals from contrac- tors. Costs, funding strategies, the time line and scope will be deter- mined by the contractor who lands the bid, Daniel said. There are hundreds of vehicles

operated by the city-parish, but the contractor will ultimately recom- mend how many vehicles and what departments should be converted to CNG, Daniel said. David Guillory, assistant DPW

director, said his agency will be par- ticularly interested in replacing its maintenance and operations vehicles, which include heavy dump trucks, tractors and large pickup trucks. “We do have a lot of passenger ve-

hicles, but it’s the heavy-duty pickups that we’d really like to save on fuel and burn cleaner fuel sources,” Guil- lory said. The initial investment to convert

to CNG is expensive because it re- quires new vehicles and fueling sta- tions. Gifford Briggs, vice president of

the Louisiana Oil and Gas Associa- tion, said it costs about $10,000 to convert a vehicle to CNG, and fueling stations are between $1 million and $2 million to build.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40