Natural-gas plan for state vehicles

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration is evaluating possibilities to increase use of compressed natural gas in state vehicles.

In November, Hickenlooper and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed an agreement designed to boost the use of natural gas in state fleet vehicles. The Governor’s Energy Office in Colorado is looking into ways to support local efforts to increase use of the fuel in vehicles, such as ones going on in Garfield and Mesa counties.

Alex Schroeder, senior manager for transportation fuels for the Governor’s Energy Office, said the effort makes sense, considering Colorado exports three-quarters of the natural gas it produces, even as it imports oil. He said natural gas is cheaper than gasoline and burns cleaner.

The agreement between Colorado and Oklahoma subsequently has been joined by Kentucky, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Maine, West Virginia and Texas. The states agreed to jointly issue a request for proposal to supply them natural-gas-powered vehicles, in hopes of promoting domestic manufacture of such vehicles.

Schroeder said Colorado’s government has roughly 10,000 vehicles.

“It’s a pretty wide range, and we’re kind of looking at, in that fleet: What role does natural gas play? Where can it really provide some benefits?” he said. “It’s obviously going to be a function of budget as well.”

Officials are analyzing the range of vehicles in the state, and which ones are up for replacement and might be replaced by vehicles that run on natural gas.

Natural gas producers such as Encana Oil & Gas (USA) and governmental entities such as Garfield and Weld counties and the city of Grand Junction have been pursuing efforts to increase use of natural gas in vehicles. Those efforts have focused on things such as getting stations built that dispense the fuel and encouraging purchase of vehicles that use it, or conversion of existing ones to use it.

While Schroeder’s office provided grant support for fueling stations in Rifle and Grand Junction, he said its ability to provide grants is limited. Still, he said removing barriers to natural gas use in vehicles is “one of our top priorities for this office going forward.”

Schroeder said his office is working to help local efforts through means such as considering where state vehicles that use natural gas should be positioned around Colorado, to take advantage of and support fueling stations.


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