OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An initiative launched by the governors of Oklahoma and Colorado to encourage the production of compressed natural gas vehicles for their state fleets has produced more than 100 bids from vehicle dealerships in 28 states, the two said Thursday.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the bids represent significant savings when compared to the cost of converting gasoline- or diesel-burning vehicles, freeing up scarce taxpayer dollars for other needs.
"Our ambitious plan that we started more than a year ago is well on its way," Fallin said at the 2012 Governor's Energy Conference.
A total of 22 states are now participating in the initiative, enough to demonstrate to vehicle manufacturers that there is "pent-up demand" for CNG vehicles, she said.
Fallin said there are about 11,000 vehicles in Oklahoma's state fleet system and 15,000 in Colorado's. She said 38 percent of Oklahoma's state vehicles have more than 100,000 miles on them and the state replaces up to 700 vehicles a year.
Hickenlooper said natural gas burns cleaner and is less expensive than gasoline and diesel, and predicted there will be sufficient demand for CNG vehicles within two years that they will be widely available nationwide for public fleets and private car buyers.
"In the next couple of years we're going to have cleaner air," Hickenlooper said. "The potential for exponential change is dramatic."
The national average price for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.78 compared to $1.35 for the gallon equivalent of natural gas.
Details of the CNG vehicle bids will be released Friday, but Fallin said they include reductions in the cost of a three-quarter-ton CNG pickup truck of about $5,800, or about 16 percent. The cost of CNG compact sedans is about 8 percent less, about 4 percent less for CNG transit cargo vans and about 11 percent less for one-ton CNG vans.
Hickenlooper said he and Fallin launched the initiative as a way to stimulate the natural gas industries in their states, expand the CNG infrastructure nationwide and wean the nation off foreign oil.
Fallin said the CNG-vehicle initiative will help the environment, boost the economy and support job creation.
Earlier this year, Fallin and Hickenlooper met with representatives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in Detroit. Fallin said they also have been in touch with officials from Honda.
"Auto manufacturers are excited about this initiative," she said. "We do believe this is a game-changing moment."
Other states participating in the initiative are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.