Last updated: July 17. 2013 5:53PM - 134 Views
From the governor’s desk: A weekly column by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

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We have an abundance of natural gas right here in West Virginia. Now is the time for us to begin transitioning to the transportation fuel source of tomorrow. The transition to natural gas fueled vehicles must begin now so that our auto industry and private sector fuel retailers can embrace the future by manufacturing natural gas vehicles and equipping filling stations with natural gas fuel.

The United States now has the capacity to significantly wean itself from foreign oil dependency. Having 98 percent of the natural gas used in the United States, produced in the United States and Canada, its reliability and dependability of supply is unquestionably superior to foreign oil. Proven reserves now indicate our country has enough natural gas to serve us for more than the next 100 years.

In using natural gas as a fuel source, we can avoid national defense costs associated with insuring deliveries of foreign oil, while also saving money on daily fuel costs. The price of natural gas on a gas per gallon equivalent (GGE) is between $1.50-$2.00. That is remarkable even considering the additional cost of having a vehicle equipped with the capacity to utilize natural gas as the fuel source. Most recently, Waste Management, Inc. made a determination to incrementally convert its fleet of garbage trucks to natural gas. For original equipment, the cost of a new truck increased by nearly $30,000, but the estimated single year savings on fuel costs was projected to be $27,000. Over the life of the vehicle, Waste Management is set to achieve significant bottom-line savings and improve shareholder value.

What is a smart corporate decision to benefit shareholders also can be a smart decision for the State of West Virginia. That is why I have commissioned a task force of natural gas industry experts and state officials to help me devise a plan and strategy to transition major segments of the State of West Virginia’s vehicular fleet to a natural gas fueled model. This task force will fully evaluate the financial implications associated with conversion of the fleet and development of the necessary natural gas fueling station infrastructure for the state’s fleet. It will analyze the infrastructure needs and logistical elements of establishing the same. It also will make recommendations on the state’s motor vehicle fuel tax to reflect utilization of natural gas as a vehicular fuel, along with such legislation which may be needed to accomplish that objective. Finally, the task force will advise us on how to proceed with educating the general public on the attributes of conversion from gasoline and diesel to natural gas as a fuel.

Earlier this week, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association joined me in announcing the 2013 Appalachian Basin Natural Gas Vehicle Expo and Conference. The May event will transform the Charleston Civic Center into a showplace of what natural gas has done for the transportation industry and what it can do in the future. Natural gas powered vehicles from some of the world’s largest manufacturers will be on hand. Cars and trucks that West Virginians drive everyday will be there-but these special models will run on natural gas. At the three day event, experts will advise private businesses, as well as cities and counties, on how to implement this natural resource for their transportation needs.

I look forward to attending the expo, hearing the task force’s recommendations and moving one step closer to using this valuable resource we have been blessed with right here in West Virginia today and in the immediate future.

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