Two Atoka County commissioners drove to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to learn about a state bid for compressed natural gas vehicles, even though there is no place in their area to buy the alternative fuel.
Commissioners Phillip Culbreath and Marvin Dale were among more than 200 city, county and state officials who gathered Wednesday at the Oklahoma History Center for a forum sponsored by Gov. Mary Fallin and Energy Secretary Mike Ming's office.
The informational meeting focused on Oklahoma's CNG initiative, which was launched last year by Fallin and her Colorado counterpart, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
The two governors formed a bipartisan coalition of 22 states interested in buying more natural gas vehicles for their fleets. The group received bids in October for CNG vehicles from dealers in 28 states.
Representatives of several Oklahoma dealerships were on hand Wednesday to show off the natural gas vehicles they are offering.
Officials said the bids offered savings of up to $5,800 on natural gas vehicles, savings that also are available to Oklahoma cities and counties.
Dale said the state bid would make it easier for Atoka County to purchase natural gas vehicles.
He said he already has a used bi-fuel pickup, which runs on gasoline or CNG, but he hasn't been able to fill it with natural gas because there are no fueling stations in his area.
Culbreath said there is some natural gas exploration in Atoka County so he is optimistic there soon will be a CNG fueling station there too.
Fallin said Oklahoma is expected to soon have more than 100 public CNG fueling stations. The state already is No. 1 in the nation in fueling stations per capita.
She said she wants more government entities to join the state in adding natural gas vehicles to their fleets because they can save money by switching to a cheaper fuel. Fallin said officials estimate CNG vehicles can save up to $20,000 in fuel costs during their life span.
Taylor Shinn, senior director of corporate development at Chesapeake Energy Corp., said CNG is a viable alternative to gasoline or diesel because the nation's booming supply of natural gas will limit price fluctuations.
He said the standard unit for pricing natural gas is a thousand cubic feet. That is enough to produce the equivalent of eight gallons of gasoline.
Shinn said that shields CNG from the same price spikes that are common for gasoline and diesel.
“That margin is there for the American public to use,” he said.