Panel: Natural gas fuel stations needed in area

It’s possible to drive from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains using compressed natural gas as fuel. A driver can fill up with compressed natural gas in central Utah and complete the trip to the West Coast.

In between, though, are what the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association is calling the “missing miles,” which happen to run through some of the West’s richest reservoirs of natural gas, where Interstate 70 bisects the Piceance Basin.

The Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association wrote to U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., last week, asking him to help make compressed natural gas available for use in that stretch as a transportation fuel and to speak at a “Missing Miles Forum” next summer.

The 3rd Congressional District, which Salazar represents, “serves as a national hindrance to CNG-powered alternative-fuel vehicles and is a significant missing link related to national highway connectivity,” the association wrote to Salazar.

The association hopes to build public support for compressed-natural-gas filling stations along Interstate 70 from Denver to Price, Utah, or Cedar City, Utah, said David Ludlam, executive director of the association.

“We hope your office shares our vision for a CNG future, and we hope for your visible support of ongoing CNG projects,” Ludlam wrote to Salazar.

In addition to being a domestic fuel source, compressed natural gas is “radically less expensive than gasoline” when compared on the basis of British thermal units, Ludlam said.

A Salazar spokesman said he hadn’t seen the letter and was unable to comment on it.

The federal government could help immediately by reinstating a 50-cent-per-gallon excise-tax rebate that would allow retailers to offer lower prices to consumers, said Wes Biggers, president of FuelTek Conversion Corp. in Commerce City.

The rebate expired Dec. 31 and there have been no efforts in Congress to revive it, Biggers said.

Biggers applauded the effort by the association to encourage filling stations along Interstate 70.

“We produce it here,” he said. “Why aren’t we using it?”

Colorado had compressed-natural-gas filling stations until the early part of this century, when the network fell apart for lack of demand, Biggers said.

Tax incentives to potential sellers would help because of the prohibitive expense of building compressed-natural-gas filling stations, which can cost $500,000 for a small station or $1 million for a larger one, he said.

Current tax incentives are geared to encourage production of vehicles that run on one form of fuel. Vehicle makers need to be encouraged to make vehicles that operate on two forms of fuel, so consumers can choose the fuel they need, Biggers said.


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