By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Gov. Mary Fallin congratulated the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners on Thursday for their purchase of two Compressed Natural Gas vehicles.
Cleveland County was the first county to commit and purchase CNG-powered vehicles, which will save the county money in the long run.
“I’m excited that Oklahoma is actually leading the way,” Fallin said.
Commissioners Rod Cleveland and Darry Stacy both spoke about the positives of CNG vehicles, as well as obstacles that will need to be overcome. Cleveland said with trucks only getting 10 to 12 miles to the gallon, fuel prices eat up a lot of resources when resources are already limited. When he was first elected, he began researching CNG vehicles.
“I saw the positives of cleaner emissions, cheaper fuel prices and cleaner and less maintenance of CNG engines, and that was very enticing,” he said.
His optimism for CNG vehicles was renewed when Fallin shared a commitment with other governors in 2011. Fallin got 23 other states on a national bid, visited with car companies to ask about developing more CNG vehicles since they were going to make a commitment as states to purchase them, and the auto companies took the offer.
Fallin said it then gave them better access to CNG vehicles and allowed anyone in government to purchase off the contract. While Fallin challenged state agencies to commit to CNG vehicles, Cleveland said he challenges Oklahoma counties to do the same.
Stacy said Fallin’s initiative allowed the county to save about $12,000 per CNG vehicle purchase. The price tag is about $7,000 more than a regular vehicle, but the CNG vehicle pays itself off in about two years.
“The savings should be huge,” Stacy said.
Each vehicle will save the county about $20,000 over its entire life span. The vehicles also will create more Oklahoma jobs through energy production in the state, lowering the dependency on foreign oil, “which I think we can all agree is a good thing,” he said.
However, Cleveland mentioned several obstacles they are still trying to overcome. First, the purchase price, which he said they will hopefully be able to keep driving down. Second, the distribution of CNG because county members currently have to go to Love’s, OnCue or other private sources to fill up the vehicles.
It is also expensive to put a fuel station at a county barn, he said, adding that commissioners will try to explore options with the legislature about doing private-public partnerships to get those stations.
"As we build that demand, then we build up the infrastructure,” Fallin said. “Because of our efforts over the last couple of years, now Oklahoma has more CNG fuel stations per capita than any state in the nation.”
The governor said as the demand of CNG vehicles rises, more jobs will be created, which will generate more money for the state. It is an initiative she has been pitching to the president, as well, she said, adding that the U.S. Postal Service could benefit from the vehicles.
“We have a clean source of American-made energy, and it provides revenue back that we utilize, whether in our state or in our counties or cities. We’re excited about the efforts that are being done,” she said. “Job well done.”