Auto companies meet to discuss natural gas plan

Groups want manufacturers to produce more affordable vehicles that run on natural gas

By Sean Murphy
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With nearly two dozen states looking to add natural gas-powered vehicles to their government fleets, it ultimately could push the public to follow suit in purchasing cars and trucks powered by cleaner, affordable and domestically produced fuel, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.

Fallin spoke to a group of automobile manufacturers and dealers, and purchasing officials from more than a dozen states, following a discussion about an effort involving 22 states to solicit bids for the purchase of natural gas-powered vehicles for state fleets.

“We’re serious. We’re ready to buy natural gas vehicles now,” Fallin said. “We all know that natural gas is a cleaner form of energy. It’s an abundant form of energy. It’s a less expensive and cheaper form of energy, one that will not only create American-made jobs, it will be good for our national security and economic security.”

Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have led the effort to get auto manufacturers to produce more affordable vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. The initiative also is designed to promote the natural gas industry, and many of the states that have joined the effort — including Texas, Wyoming, West Virginia and Pennsylvania — are natural gas-producing states.

Fallin acknowledged that a vibrant natural gas industry “will help provide our states with money back into our local economies, money back into our state budgets, which will be beneficial for those governors who are participating in this.”

Twenty-two states have joined to issue a formal request for proposals, or RFP, being coordinated by Oklahoma state officials. Solicitation responses from auto manufacturers and dealers are due Sept. 7, and purchasing officials expect award a contract by Oct. 5.

The contract specifically details a potential purchase of as many as 60 compact sedans, 850 mid- to full-size sedans, 400 half-ton trucks and 480 three-quarter ton trucks, although it notes that the final number of vehicles purchased could fluctuate.

Wednesday’s meeting focused on an overview of the solicitation and details of the RFP, and state officials and vendors acknowledge there are still many details to be worked out.

“Anytime you have 22 states involved in something, you’re going to have 22 different opinions about how it needs to be done,” said Alan Rosner, fleet director for Sam Pack’s Five-Star Ford in Carrollton, Texas, who said he plans to participate in the planned bid process. “We’ll get it ironed out. It’s generic enough to work.

“The more product that we can put out there for choices, the better it is for everybody.”

Rosner noted only 12 of the 22 states allow out-of-state dealers to sell vehicles to the state.