Looking for ways to step on the accelerator for natural gas vehicles (NGV), Colorado and Oklahoma state officials -- including the two respective governors -- paid a visit to Detroit Monday to urge U.S. auto manufacturers to get behind what they are outlining as a "multi-state, bipartisan compressed natural gas (CNG) initiative" to put more vehicles on the road.

The delegation was led by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, along with Oklahoma's energy secretary, Michael Ming, and commerce secretary, Dave Lopez. The states are ready to buy more NGVs, but they need commitments from the automakers to produce them.

First introduced by Fallin and Hickenlooper earlier, the initiative is supposed to establish the demand and incentive for U.S. auto manufacturers to "design and sell suitable CNG-powered passenger vehicles" that can serve public fleets and private-sector individual consumers.

In April the two governors, along with their counterparts in 11 other states, sent letters to automakers throughout the United States to express their collective commitment to "explore ways to purchase more CNG vehicles" for their respective state fleets (see Daily GPI, May 7). They are seeking it as both a cost-saving measure and as a means of encouraging the manufacture of more CNG vehicles.

The letters from the 13 states previewed a request for information (RFI) seeking background and data in anticipation of a multi-state solicitation for the Detroit manufacturers later this summer. (The other states are Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming).

Fallin said the face-to-face meetings in Detroit were designed to allow the states to convey the level of interest they have in the CNG initiative. "The development of CNG vehicles continues to be hampered by a 'chicken -egg' scenario," Fallin said. "Consumers won't buy CNG vehicles while there is limited fueling infrastructure and high vehicle price points, and manufacturers won't wade into the market if there is not a sufficient infrastructure and break through the barriers holding back the development of CNG vehicles."

Hickenlooper said NGVs provide what he called "clean, affordable" transportation that can help national energy security and economic development. "We believe there is strong interest in NGVs, and we want to leverage the collective purchasing power of state fleets to jump start that market."

Last year, the governors of Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Pennsylvania kicked off the multi-state approach, signing a pact designed to increase the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) in the fleets of each state (see Daily GPI, Nov. 10, 2011). The memorandum of understanding calls for the states to aggregate fleet vehicle procurements with the intent of creating a demand base sufficient to support the design, manufacture and sale of NGVs by U.S. manufacturers.

"Aggregating state and local vehicle purchases is a common-sense way to close the price gap between traditional and alternative fuel vehicles," Hickenlooper said back then. "Developing markets for vehicles that run on natural gas -- an abundant domestic fuel -- can help reduce dependence on foreign oil, enhance air quality and showcase how states are leading by example to help tackle the complex energy challenges that our country faces."

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