Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Governor Says Businesses Key To Natural Gas Vehicles

Gov. John Kasich urged business leaders Tuesday to pressure groups like the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to push harder for widespread adoption of natural gas-fueled vehicles in the state. Speaking during America's Natural Gas Alliance Vehicle Summit at Ohio State University, the governor said business leaders were critical in his administration's effort to expand the use of natural gas vehicles as a way to reduce the state's dependency on foreign oil while increasing demand for natural gas from Ohio's deep shale formations. Gov. Kasich said he had spoken to several auto executives about the potential for building NGVs in Ohio.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Todd Snitchler said the administration has been working with local governments, private companies, and other states with large vehicle fleets that could be converted to natural gas to help drive demand to, in turn, expand the infrastructure necessary for refueling. The cities of Columbus, Dublin and Hamilton have built natural gas fueling infrastructure and started converting their fleets, which has attracted attention from other municipalities and counties, he said. Although the state is trying to simultaneously stimulate demand and production of natural gas vehicles and fueling stations, "Ohio will not invest in NGVs for the state fleet when it does not make economic sense," Chairman Snitchler said.

The recently passed mid-biennium review (HB 487) charged the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Department of Administrative Services, and the Ohio Department of Transportation with issuing a report on the feasibility of converting state fleets to natural gas, according to DAS spokesman Dan Kaman. The agencies are currently working on the report, which will inventory natural gas filling stations and vehicle options, and analyze the cost of converting DAS and ODOT fleets over two to four years to recommend whether or not to move forward, he said.

Gov. Kasich said while the state was trying to "jumpstart" a new NGV market that will attract automakers and infrastructure development, it was critical to have more support from the business community. "One of the things that we really need in our state is to get our business organizations to be more effective at being able to communicate a sense of urgency to the members of those business organizations, which I don't think is being done," he said. "I have to get to work on that. I have to get to the boards and try to hold them accountable for this." He urged summit participants to contact their business organizations and seemed perplexed that relatively few people in the audience belonged to the Ohio Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business. "Who are you people, who's here?" he asked. After his staff told him that they were primarily manufacturers and dealers, the governor said the industry would have to be more aggressive in promoting promise of NGV with business groups.

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