CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than a decade after efforts to promote the use of natural gas-powered vehicles in the state floundered, a task force appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin met for the first time Thursday to revisit the issue.
Tomblin said he believes the time may be right to convert vehicles to natural gas, given the low price and abundant supply, compared to the late-1990s.
"The price of natural gas is a fraction of what it was at that time," Tomblin said Thursday. "A lot has changed."
The task force, made up of state officials, representatives of the natural gas industry and gas and convenience store operators, are to study the financial and practical viability of converting all or part of the state vehicle fleet to natural gas.
"We're not going to attempt something that's not feasible," Tomblin said of the task force study.
Frank McCollough, who was president of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition in the 1990s, said fluctuations in natural gas prices and supply problems doomed that conversion effort.
It didn't help, he said, that each of the four natural gas companies participating in the project acted independently, so fueling stations around the state were set up differently, and each had a different payment system.
However, he noted, "If you knew where the stations were located, it was possible to drive throughout the state on natural gas."