Roth: $1.30 per gallon in Oklahoma?

By Jim Roth | January 24, 2011

Yes, and that price is now becoming available at more stations near you.

Currently there are more than 1,100 natural gas refueling stations across the nation, and a consortium of 13 companies, including Honda, Toyota and Nissan, have partnered with several energy companies to build more than 100 additional natural gas filling stations across the country.

In Oklahoma, Chesapeake and local retailers (OnCue) are partners in the opening of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations in six communities across Oklahoma.

The new filling stations will be owned by OnCue and are at Chesapeake field offices. The stations service the public as well as Chesapeake vehicles.

Three of the filling stations will be in Oklahoma City and others will be opened in Weatherford, Waynoka, Lindsay, Arkoma and Wilburton.

Overall, there are 11 natural gas filling stations in the state of Oklahoma; nine of them are owned and operated by OnCue.

Currently, companies or utilities own most of the CNG vehicles in the United States, as their greatest use has been among commercial and governmental fleets.

But with the installation of 100 new filling stations and the attractive price difference between natural gas and gasoline, it is likely that you will start to see more and more CNG-powered cars on our roads.

Of course, you can purchase a compressed natural gas vehicle today; the most publicized vehicle is the Honda Civic GX.

Honda touts the GX as an advanced technology, partial-zero-emission vehicle. It is fueled by compressed natural gas for nearly zero emissions and receives HOV lane access in many states. It has a 113-horsepower, 1.8-liter, 16-valve, SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Not to be left too far behind, at the Detroit auto show Mercedes and Toyota unveiled their plans to join Honda in providing a CNG vehicle to consumers. Their plan is for the new vehicles to hit the public by 2015.

The timing of the new vehicle marketing is meant to coincide with the expansion of the national natural gas refueling infrastructure.

There are many pros and cons to purchasing natural gas vehicles.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, NGVs are the cleanest alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. This is because in addition to emitting less greenhouse gas pollutants, NGVs also emit less carbon monoxide, nonmethane organic gases and nitrogen oxides.

In fact, the recent London Economics Study specifically compared CNG vehicles to electric vehicles and concluded: “Because the incremental cost of owning an EV exceeds that of owning an NGV, NGVs are in fact under many scenarios presently more cost-effective at reducing greenhouse gases compared to EVs, even though EVs may produce fewer emissions overall. This advantage becomes larger in regions with intensive coal generation or significantly lower natural gas prices. Our analysis shows that unless the purchase price of EVs can be reduced significantly in the short to medium term, it is likely that NGVs will remain a more cost-effective choice in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Natural gas is currently cheaper than gasoline. Gasoline is about $3 per gallon and natural gas is about $1.30 per gallon equivalent.

As recently as a few weeks ago natural gas was closer to $1 per gallon, so the average consumer traveling to and from work each day enjoyed a greater than 50-percent savings on gas if they chose to drive a CNG vehicle.

However, CNG vehicles have a shorter range; for example, the Honda Civic GX has a driving range of about 170 miles. The current refueling infrastructure is still a challenge to enable a more immediate, massive switch to natural gas vehicles, but the tide is turning. As fuel becomes more readily available to the driving public, the use and demand for NGVs will grow significantly as the economics become even more favorable.

Yet with the new investments in technology and infrastructure it is clear that natural gas vehicles are a thing in our future and will likely serve a major step in our effort to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and improve our national energy security.

Do you want to save half the money you spend to fuel your car?

Drive smart (and cheaper) in a NGV.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.