CHARLESTON - West Virginia's abundant natural gas supply has Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ready to order a cost-benefit analysis of switching at least part of the state's vehicle fleet from gasoline and diesel, according to administration officials and those who have been asked to serve on the resulting task force.
Tomblin plans issue an executive order that also aims promote this alternative source among the public, said Rob Alsop, his chief of staff.
"He thinks that given the price of natural gas and what looks like the long term development of the Marcellus Shale, this can become a resource for our fleet instead of depending on oil," Alsop said. "It could help with job creation and lowering transportation costs in the state."
The task force is expected to include top executives from gas producers and companies with such relevant holdings as service stations.
"We're interested in demonstrating that we can improve our nation's energy security, hopefully by converting at least part of the vehicular fleet in this country, starting here in West Virginia," said Phil Reale of the state's Independent Oil and Gas Association, among those asked to join the volunteer group.
Scott Rotruck, a Chesapeake Energy executive and another task force member, called switching at least part of the fleet "an excellent first step in a broader movement that would change the way we all fuel our cars in the U.S."
"The state has several large roles to play, notably this time as a 'market player' with fleet conversion," Rotruck said.
Tomblin is also among 13 governors who appealed to auto makers in an April 27 letter to help them jointly shift their fleets.
"A bipartisan partnership between governors and auto manufacturers in the U.S. makes sense and has the potential to create new options for alternative fuel vehicles and transportation fuel diversity," the letter said.