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NGVs Drive State Leaders, Automakers to Oklahoma

As part of a nationwide effort spurred by a bipartisan collaboration of governors, U.S. auto manufacturers were in Oklahoma last week to learn more about recently issued multi-state request for proposals (RFP) for supplying natural gas vehicles (NGV) to bolster state fleets.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has helped lead national efforts to build NGV markets, said 22 states are now involved in the RFP, all indicating an interest in purchasing NGVs for their state fleets. Under the RFPs domestic auto manufacturers are asked to produce "affordable and functional" compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for state fleets.

The public meeting Wednesday was a general overview of the RFP, and provided an "open forum" for vehicle dealers and auto manufacturers to ask questions of various state representatives, said Fallin. Efforts by the state governors "demonstrate the demand and need" for more CNG vehicles, said Fallin's spokesperson. The Oklahoma governor and her colleagues, however, have noted that building a bigger NGV industry still faces "hurdles," such as the pending rule proposal from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that could place NGVs "at a competitive disadvantage relative to other alternative fuel vehicles," he said.

The governors raised concerns about new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards now being considered, which some claim may favor electric vehicles (EV) over NGV production. The CAFE standards could create "an uneven playing field for alternative transportation fuel technologies," said Fallin. "The objective behind our efforts is simple. We want auto manufacturers to know that states mean business and are strongly committed to the use of CNG vehicles in state fleets so more vehicles can become available to consumers."

Fallin said the shift to more NGVs can help states reduce their transportation costs, create new jobs and strengthen tax revenue bases. The next step for the collaborative RFP is to get some bids from the manufacturers, the spokesperson for Fallin told NGI Friday, noting that Oklahoma also will be hosting a Governors' Energy Conference Oct. 4 in Oklahoma City including energy producers. The RFP and the CNG vehicle initiative will be one of the agenda items for that gathering, he said.

Last Wednesday's meeting was described as "constructive," the governor's spokesperson said. "We think the auto industry is excited about this effort."

In her remarks to the forum, Fallin said the development of NGVs is at a "critical juncture," and said it was "vital" that the federal government remain technology-neutral when in comes to alternative transportation options. "Let the market decide," she said. "We want the nation to realize that clean-burning natural gas is a technology that works today and offers a viable path toward achieving energy independence."

Fourteen governors have signed a memorandum of understanding in support of the RFP effort, and another eight states have shown interest in joining the efforts. In addition to Oklahoma and Colorado, states supporting the RFP efforts are Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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