The only thing worse than high gasoline prices is price volatility. What may sell for $3.75 a gallon today could go for $3.90 tomorrow.
Compressed natural gas has gasoline beat on two fronts. It's now selling for about $1.50 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and the volatility factor just isn't there. So if you're driving a CNG-equipped vehicle, what you pay today will probably be what you pay next month.
The rub on CNG is that it's hard to find filling stations. This is changing: Nearly 40 Oklahoma cities have at least one station. On the other hand, in the same way that much of Oklahoma suffers from a lack of high-speed Internet and the latest cellphone technology, vast areas of the state remain CNG-challenged.
In the more populated areas, though, there's no longer an excuse not to convert to CNG if desired. What's slowly filling the state with CNG filling stations is a Republican-backed state tax credit that covers up to 75 percent of the cost of alternative fuel infrastructure. Also available is a credit for buying a vehicle that runs on an alternative fuel or converting one to such a fuel.
A credit for CNG makes more sense to us than the generous subsidies for electric vehicles, the price of which generally limits purchases to the wealthiest consumers. CNG vehicles do cost more, but the price differential is far less than for electric cars.
Also, comparing CNG prices with gasoline prices isn't an apples-and-oranges match. CNG vehicles will probably get fewer miles per gallon. Still, as the gap between CNG prices and gasoline costs widens, the advantages of CNG improve.
For Oklahoma and the environment, the advantages of CNG are enormous. Credit for the CNG price advantage goes to the industry, not the government. Credit for the filling station surge goes in large part to Chris Benge, the former Republican speaker of the Oklahoma House.