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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Another Fuel Option


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We have all been frustrated watching gasoline and diesel prices constantly fluctuate in recent years. In Arkansas, we continue our efforts to develop and promote alternative fuels. This past August, the Arkansas Energy Office created a $1.2 million, federally-funded program to increase the number of vehicles in Arkansas that run on compressed natural gas, also known as CNG. CNG is made by compressing natural gas to less than one percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Consisting mostly of methane, CNG is odorless, colorless, clean and inexpensive.

Perhaps most important of all, CNG uses zero foreign or domestic petroleum. Managers of public and private fleets can apply for rebates to purchase new CNG vehicles or to convert existing vehicles under a current state program. State agencies, higher-education institutions, cities, counties, school districts and other fleets are already taking advantage of the program.

For this gradual transition to work, however, Arkansas must have the infrastructure required to support these vehicles. To this end, nearly a half-million dollars has been devoted to the construction of two new CNG fueling stations. The Energy Office has announced that those stations will be located in Conway and Little Rock, along Interstates 40 and 30, respectively. Upon their completion, Arkansas will have seven CNG fueling stations statewide.

While other parts of the country have had time to fully develop an adequate natural-gas fueling infrastructure, Arkansas's is still young. But, with the completion of these two new stations, it will be more practical for fleets to use natural gas. That's because it's common for these vehicles to be centrally maintained and fueled. Also, they tend to travel more miles per day than personal vehicles. Therefore, they can take better advantage of the lower price per gallon of natural gas. Eventually, it will be feasible for more and more Arkansans to use CNG fuels if they wish to do so.

The cost of CNG at the pump averages one-third less than traditional gasoline, and natural gas is in abundant domestic supply, but economic advantages are only one part of the potential benefits. CNG also contains the least amount of carbon of any fossil fuel, making it less harmful to the environment. And in the event of a fuel-tank rupture, natural gas dissipates into the air and has a narrow range of flammability, lowering the risk of fire danger at the scene of an accident.

The United States is working toward ending our reliance on oil from the Middle East, and Arkansas can play an important part in that effort. I've spoken at length many times about the economic-development opportunities that are possible in Arkansas with technological advances in biomass, wind and solar-based energies. Natural gas is another field with strong potential to move us toward domestic-based, cleaner fuels. The new CNG stations to be built in Central Arkansas will give more Arkansans a cleaner, cheaper choice in fueling their vehicles.

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