Which comes first, the demand for CNG chickens or the supply of CNG eggs?
Increasing the number of compressed natural gas vehicles has long been a which-comes-first question, mostly regarding the supply of CNG fueling stations versus the demand by motorists for CNG. But the question is also brooding in the henhouses of carmakers. They want to know how many CNG units they can sell before investing in the retooling of plants.
Gov. Mary Fallin is trying to convince Detroit to roll out more CNG vehicles. She and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper met with auto industry executives this week. To unscramble the which-comes-first dilemma, demand must poach the territory of supply.
Fallin said she's encouraged by the response from carmakers. She's steadily winning converts to CNG conversion, with about a dozen states saying they're willing to burn CNG in government-owned vehicles.
CNG vehicles cost more, so taxpayers might be skeptical. But they're also cheaper to run, so taxpayers should be glad. Which comes first, though, taxpayer joy over ongoing fuel expense cuts or taxpayer acceptance of paying more up front?
Fallin is pushing CNG because new markets for natural gas help the state in more ways than one. CNG is a cleaner-burning fuel than gasoline. Still, individuals considering a conversion lack the resources to gamble on CNG. They must be convinced that they'll recover the extra cost of the vehicles.
The governor's view that recovery could happen in under three years seems overly optimistic. Anything over three is a tough sell to consumers, but it shouldn't be to Oklahoma taxpayers. A state-led wave of CNG vehicle sales would help Oklahoma and the environment. If only the federal government were as enthusiastic about CNG as it has been about ethanol.
The corn that could feed chickens is making fuel, with taxpayer help. A boost for CNG would be more than chicken feed for Oklahoma.