Natural gas development is a key component of Mississippi’s energy strategy, according to Gov. Phil Bryant, who on Wednesday said he has taken steps to encourage the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) in the state.

Bryant said he has instructed Mississippi’s Department of Finance and Administration to request bids from companies to convert state-owned vehicles from gasoline or diesel fuel to natural gas, and he has signed a memorandum of understanding with 11 other governors seeking to encourage auto manufacturers to increase NGV production.

Bryant has said Mississippi is on the cutting edge of energy technology, and he hopes that the state can lead industry innovation.

The Mississippi State Legislature should create incentives that would spur development of natural gas fueling stations and the jobs that would come with them, Bryant said during a press conference in Jackson, MS.

“Gasoline is averaging more than $3.80/gal while compressed natural gas is averaging less than $2/gal, with some stations charging less than 75 cents/gal. Our state and our citizens need the opportunity to realize the savings natural gas can create.”

The state’s Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) recently launched a pilot program to convert some of the state’s fleet of about 7,400 vehicles to natural gas.

The legislature is considering the Energy Sustainability and Development Act of 2012 (HB 1330), which would require the development of a statewide energy plan to forecast energy needs and deficiencies. The bill, which was already passed by the state’s House, was referred to the Senate Energy and Finance committees on Tuesday.

Natural gas development is a key component of Mississippi’s energy strategy, and the state’s gas resources and infrastructure will help it “dominate the natural gas stage at the national level,” Bryant said.

“More natural gas flows through Mississippi than any other state, making it a hub for natural gas development,” he said.

Bryant was joined at the press conference by oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, as well as representatives from industries that support natural gas expansion in Mississippi.

Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels Corp. has said it plans to build a natural gas fueling station near Jackson by 2014. On Monday the Seal Beach, CA-based company said it had signed a 10-year deal with a major fleet operator, Saddle Creek Corp., to build fueling stations to support its expanding natural gas-powered truck fleet (see Daily GPI, March 20).

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