By Jay F. Marks
An Okarche company earned a commendation from Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday for converting 2,000 vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.
The milestone conversion by OEM Systems Inc. was a vehicle for the state Department of Agriculture.
Fallin praised OEM and Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese for their commitment to using natural gas, an abundant Oklahoma resource.
OEM has done most of its business on conversions with companies interested in saving money on fuel for their vehicle fleets, led by Chesapeake Energy Corp.
Chesapeake is in the midst of converting its entire 5,000-vehicle fleet to CNG. OEM already has converted about 1,250 vehicles for the Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company.
OEM owner Lisha Oshman credited Fallin with helping drive demand for CNG to another level.
In November, Fallin announced an initiative to spur investment in CNG technology by joining governors from Colorado, Wyoming and Pennsylvania in a pledge to buy 5,000 CNG vehicles a year.
Ten governors now have signed on to the pledge, which is meant to encourage carmakers to design and build affordable natural gas vehicles.
"It's good policy for our nation," Fallin said.
She presented Oshman, who was joined by about two dozen OEM employees, with a commendation to mark the company's achievement.
Oshman responded by handing the governor the keys to Oklahoma's newest natural gas vehicle. The state currently has about 100 vehicles fueled by CNG.
OEM officials estimated as many as 1,800 of its 2,000 conversions have been for fleet vehicles, but the number of drivers seeking to fuel their personal vehicles is on the rise.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony, who bought a natural gas-powered Chevrolet Tahoe last May, said infrastructure growth is making CNG more appealing to drivers.
"It's happening in Oklahoma in a big way," he said.