A town hall meeting was held Friday at the Rural Enterprises Inc. (REI) in Durant to discuss Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling for vehicles.
Oklahoma state secretary of energy and environment Mike Teague led the forum. The mission was to gain interest in using CNG in personal use vehicles in order to bring CNG distributors to the area.
“It’s chicken and the egg kind of thing,” said Teague, explaining that consumers don’t want to buy cars they can’t get fuel for and distributers do not want to bring in a product nobody in the area is using.
“So which needs to come first? Both,” he said. CNG is methane stored at high pressures which can replace gasoline used to fuel vehicles.
He said the purpose of the forum was not for a state program but to get businesses and individuals driving these cars.
Teague said there is the prospect of making this a “home grown” product because Oklahoma has a lot of natural gas.
He said he drives a vehicle that runs on CNG. He filled his vehicle before traveling to the forum and said it cost $1.79 per gallon as opposed to the more than $3 per gallon for gasoline.
Teague showed that much of Oklahoma is equipped with CNG distributors and consumers. He said he is now trying to fill the gaps.
“In this corner of the state there is a gap,” said Teague.
Teague said although it is difficult to make such a change happen, “it is getting the traction it needs.”
According to Teague, CNG has been getting support from state governments and state entities. He said not only has Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin showed her support, but 22 other states have joined in her supportive attitude.
A fleet of 172 vehicles is currently used by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and they are expected to gain over 200 more.
It was revealed during the forum that the vehicles used by ODOT have shown equal performance to vehicles that use gasoline.
The fuel is said to prolong the life of a vehicle and cause less need for maintenance due to the clean burning fuel.
Currently, only a small number of individual vehicles are powered by CNG including some Honda Civics and Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Dodge trucks.
These vehicles cost more than their gasoline-using counterparts but Teague said it is worth the cost. He said not only is the fuel less expensive but certain tax credits may be given to those making the switch.
Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson said this may be something the city needs to be looking into. He said city municipalities need to look into using such fuel and this forum could be the beginning of awareness in the area.