West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has expressed a strong interest in switching part of the state’s vehicle fleet from gasoline and diesel to natural gas. This interest is stemming from West Virginia’s vast reserves of natural gas, and the in-state production of the cleaner-burning fuel. Tomblin has ordered a cost-benefit analysis of this proposed action and has assembled an administration task force to do so.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has also mentioned a push toward natural gas powered vehicles in his state as well. Because of the extremely low natural gas prices, Corbett believes that this industry will help bring the competitive economy and the price of the commodity up again. The push for natural gas powered vehicles in PA will start at the government level. Corbett commented on the topic saying, “One of the areas we’re looking now is, how do we help people increase the demand?”
Gov. Tomblin and Gov. Corbett are both members of a group of 13 governors that wish to push the U.S. auto industry into natural gas vehicle production. On April 27, the group wrote a letter stating, “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 vehicles and transportation fuel diversity.” It also said, “We are committed to explore the aggregation of our annual state fleet vehicle procurements to provide an incentive to manufacture affordable, functional natural gas vehicles.”
West Virginia has, in the past, tried to lead the country in a push toward natural gas vehicles. In the 1990s, the state attempted, but met failure, as interest was not high enough to sustain the new industry. Doug Harley, the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority’s assistant general manager noted that, “Back then, to make this work, you needed a lot of people converting.” When asked about the push this time around, Harley stated that, “I think we were just very much ahead of the curve.”
It does make sense for West Virginia to lead the way this time around because of the natural gas fuel stations that were installed across the state in the early 1990s. The U.S. Department of Energy believes there are about 24 alternative fuel stations in the state at this time. Although only one of them is still offering compressed natural gas, the rest will easily be reinstated to assist in this alternative energy vehicle push.
There are also plans for the construction of compressed natural gas stations in Pennsylvania already as well. Beemac Trucking announced that it will be build west PA’s first station in Beaver county, with a projected completion date sometime in early 2013. Rick Macklin, the president of Beemac Trucking tells us that, “Replacing foreign oil with natural gas as a fuel for our trucks is a major step toward fuel independence.” In his public State of the State address in West Virginia, Gov. Earl Tomblin asserted that, “It makes sense to start using fuels for our cars and buses that we produce right here in West Virginia…It is in America’s best interest, and we can lead the way.”