Practicing what you preach is a simple axiom that still holds true. It's what Gov. Mary Fallin is doing through her leadership to convert state vehicle fleets to compressed natural gas, a cheaper and cleaner fuel than gasoline or diesel.
However, the federal government has been a different story. It's made minimal progress in the efforts to advance domestic natural gas as the transportation fuel of choice, particularly with transporting federal assets.
The federal government spends roughly $150 billion on third-party transportation services each year, in addition to the hundreds of billions spent for fuel on agency fleets. These purchases have extraordinary market-moving consequences, not to mention the high diesel surcharges passed directly to the federal government and the U.S. taxpayer. All of these contribute to our growing federal deficit.
A recent report by the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF) proposes to quench the government's insatiable consumption of oil — and the fiscal and environmental consequences that come with it — by requiring federal agencies to apply to third-party contract carriers the same alternative fuel targets, efficiency standards and reporting practices they require for a portion of their own fleets.
If federal agencies adopt these standards, the ACSF estimates total savings of $25 billion by 2015. In 2012 alone fuel costs to operate cars, trucks and buses on compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas have been 26 to 43 percent lower than vehicles operating on gasoline or diesel.
Consider the nearly insolvent U.S. Postal Service as “Exhibit A” of potential savings opportunities. The USPS spends more money to reimburse its suppliers for fuel purchases than all federal agencies combined spend on gasoline and diesel for vehicles directly owned or leased.
The foundation to adopt these proposed purchasing and tracking practices has already been built. Most large freight carriers and major product shippers already partner with the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Energy to track usage of petroleum and alternative fuels, increase their fuel efficiency and cut their emissions. To orient efforts to improve federal transportation procurement practices, agencies could simply employ the data already reported by these third-party companies.
One of the few things on which both Democrats and Republicans agree is that the country must reduce its dangerous dependency on foreign oil. Using natural gas improves energy security and air quality and also bolsters the national economy. Many trucking companies are initiating the transition to natural gas.
The federal government should help ensure that it is part of the solution rather than perpetuating the problem.
Price is senior vice president of corporate development and government relations at Chesapeake Energy Corp., a founding member of American Clean Skies Foundation.