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Alliance in the News: Kanawha to weigh switch to natural gas vehicles

From the 1/2/2012 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail

Kanawha to weigh switch to natural gas vehicles

by Paul Fallon
Daily Mail Staff

The Kanawha County Commission will discuss spending $50,000 on a study of the conversion of gasoline engines in county vehicles to natural gas.

The topic will be discussed at the commission’s 5 p.m. Thursday meeting in the commission chambers at the courthouse.

The funds could be allocated to Kanawha Converts, a consortium of agencies that will be made up of the Kanawha County Commission, the Charleston Area Alliance and Bridgemont Community and Technical College in Montgomery.

Other private and public agencies will be invited to join the consortium in the future.

Commission President Kent Carper said the money would be used to consider a variety of aspects of converting vehicles to use natural gas. One aspect is infrastructure. For example, how many natural gas filling stations would be needed in the county?

This is not a new idea, Carper said. Former Gov. Bob Wise explored the issue when he was a congressman more than two decades ago, Carper said.

Wise’s initiative was undertaken for environmental reasons, he said.

This time the catalyst is job creation.

Carper said people would be needed to both convert and maintain the vehicles.

The private sector would benefit because companies would have to supply parts for vehicles that burn natural gas.

The study also would focus on the cost of converting large fleets. The county could convert ambulances, buses and other publicly owned automobiles.

“I could see the county switching to natural gas automobiles,” he said. “This is being done all over the country right now, and the only difference with West Virginia is the natural gas is here below our feet.”

Matt Ballard, president and chief executive officer for the Charleston Area Alliance, said converting automobiles to natural gas could be a significant economic boon for the county.

Ballard said the study also would look at the cost savings for individuals and large entities that converted.

“This $50,000 is an excellent start for us,” he said.

The skills aspect of the study is where Bridgemont Community and Technical College would come in, he said.

“Bridgemont will inventory the technical skills that will be needed to work on this type of automobile,” he said.

Both Carper and Ballard said West Virginia could become a major player when it comes to converting vehicles to natural gas, and Kanawha County could lead the way.

“West Virginia sits on some of the most abundant natural gas reserves in the country,” Carper said.

“Natural gas is clean, it’s abundant and it’s here. We need to capture the jobs that come along with this.”

Carper said the $50,000 would show the county is serious about natural gas conversion.

The consortium could seek funding from other agencies once the study is complete, Ballard said.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fal…@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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