Representatives from the nation's auto manufacturers, including the Big Three, met in Oklahoma City with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and procurement experts to ask questions surrounding a recently issued multistate request for proposal.
The RFP, which comes as a result of a nationwide, bi-partisan effort led by Fallin and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, asks the nation's auto manufacturers to produce affordable and functional compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for use in state automobile fleets.
As of August 8, 22 states had joined the RFP, indicating their intention to purchase CNG vehicles for use in state fleets.
With 123,000 CNG vehicles in the nation, and 1,000 fueling stations, the governors hope that this new commitment will help overcome the obstacles, including limited infrastructure and consumer demand, which may be holding automakers back from producing a wider variety of CNG vehicles.
"The objective behind our efforts is simple," said Fallin. "We want auto manufacturers to know that states mean business and are strongly committed to the use of CNG vehicles in state fleets so more vehicles can become available to consumers."
Fallin added, "By incorporating more CNG vehicles into our state fleets, we can save tax dollars by reducing the amount we spend on fuel. We can also support the use of an abundant, American-made energy source that will help create jobs, strengthen tax revenue bases at the state level, improve the environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."
Wednesday's meeting, which is open to the public, is intended to provide a general overview of the RFP and an open-forum opportunity for dealers and automakers to ask questions of the states' representatives.
The Governors' efforts demonstrate the demand and need for natural gas as a clean and efficient fuel to power automobiles and trucks. The natural gas vehicles industry, however, still faces hurdles. Chief among those is a pending rule proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is poised to place natural gas vehicles at a competitive disadvantage relative to other alternative fuel vehicles. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards currently being considered by the federal government lean heavily towards electric cars, discouraging auto manufactures from producing more CNG vehicles and creating an uneven playing field for alternative transportation fuel technologies.
"We're at a critical juncture right now. It's vital that the federal government remains technology-neutral and lets the market decide what alternative fuel technologies work," said Fallin. "We want the nation to realize that clean-burning natural gas is a technology that works today and offers a viable path toward achieving energy independence in the U.S."
While 14 Governors have signed a MOU in support of the initiative, in total 22 states have shown an interest in the RFP including Oklahoma, Colorado, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The RFP was coordinated by the National Association of State Procurement Officials, which leverages the purchasing power of states by aggregating purchases on a variety of products.