Vehicles fueled by natural gas proposed

State lawmaker wants to ween government fleet off gasoline

As the nation works to wean itself off foreign oil, one Front Range state lawmaker wants Colorado to purchase vehicles that run off a fuel from the state’s backyard: natural gas.

Sen. Mike Kopp said his measure, Senate Bill 92, would require that Colorado, starting in 2010, buy vehicles for the state fleet that run on compressed natural gas if they are cost-effective compared with other types of vehicles.

Kopp, R-Littleton, said the bill builds on efforts at the state level to move beyond purely gasoline-driven vehicles to alternatives, such as hybrids and ethanol-powered cars.

“The great tie-in for us is natural gas is abundant here in Colorado,” Kopp said. “It almost certainly is going to be cheaper for us down the line, and it’s in our backyard.”

Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica, an organization advocating for the use of national natural gas vehicles, said Kopp’s mandate makes sense for governments with a large number of vehicles that travel long distances.

Kolodziej said between commodity prices and a federal excise tax credit, natural gas is
about $1 cheaper per gallon than gasoline.

Those savings, he said, are magnified when vehicles are driven many miles. A lack of natural gas fueling stations also makes government use more economical.

“Government can afford putting in stations themselves,” Kolodziej said.

Kopp is not the first Colorado leader to advocate for natural-gas-fueled vehicles.

Dan Robinson, a Democratic candidate for the Mesa County Commission last year, said he would like to see the county utilize vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

Neither the city of Grand Junction nor Mesa County, including Grand Valley Transit, operates vehicles that run on natural gas.

Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel and Administration, which oversees the state’s vehicle fleet, said her agency has not taken a position on Kopp’s bill. The department, she said, has two natural-gas-fueled vehicles.

Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, said that in addition to boosting Colorado’s natural gas industry, Kopp’s bill could spur consumer demand for natural gas vehicles.

“I think the more vehicles that run on it, the more likely we can get infrastructure developed at retail,” White said.

Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said Kopp’s bill is an “economically viable” way to rely less on gasoline and more on more abundant, domestic resources. Kopp’s bill will go before the Senate Transportation Committee later this year.


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