Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed an executive order Tuesday creating a task force which will explore the best way to convert the state’s vehicle fleet from gasoline and diesel fuel to natural gas. Tomblin, in making the order, says such a transfer could be a huge savings to the state’s budget.
"It’s estimated right now we could cut our fuel cost by 50 percent,"said Tomblin speaking on WAJR in Morgantown. "And still have the same power and performance we do right now with gasoline or diesel."
Tomblin is among 13 governors who’ve asked the manufacturing industry to consider installing natural gas-powered engines in the heavier equipment to make them readily available for purchase. Currently machines would have to be converted to natural gas.
Tomblin says one critical step will be to properly create natural gas refueling stations across the state. Former Gov. Bob Wise heavily advocated the natural gas stations, but may have been ahead of his time. His ideas predated the discovery of gas in the Marcellus shale.
"This was tried once before under a previous administration, but it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg," Tomblin said. "We did not have the fueling stations where we needed them and therefore people were somewhat reluctant to transfer over to natural gas-powered vehicles."
The abundance of natural gas in West Virginia coupled with the present low price of gas is fueling discussion and action on the conversions now. Tomblin’s order pulls all of the major stakeholders together to plan how the transition would take place and where the fueling stations would be located.