Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Alternative Fuels Loan Program Leads to Savings

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Alternative Fuels Loan Program Leads to Savings

Article excerpt

Since its inception in 1990, Oklahoma's Alternative Fuels Loan Fund Program has led to increased fuel savings and national recognition for the state.

The loan fund program's administrator, Jason N. Smitherman, said it "has helped local governments save money on fuel costs, which I think is the most important thing in these times of doing more with less and trying to operate a government efficiently."

In addition, Oklahoma has received national recognition for its legislative actions taken to help the alternative fuels industry in the state, he said.

"By getting involved early, (the state) has helped drive a lot of the alternative fuels issues across the country. We have helped set the model for alternative fuels legislation as far as incentives," Smitherman said.

The state's program has loaned $1.6 million to 12 entities since being implemented in 1990, of which $571,625 has been repaid.

As a result, more than 300 vehicles have been converted to run on compressed natural gas or propane, Smitherman said. This has led to fuel savings of $695,655 and the displacement of 1.78 million gallons of gasoline and 43,000 barrels of oil.

Oklahoma has a total of 1,400 CNG vehicles and 16,000 propane vehicles, according to Smitherman.

Participants of the state's largest alternative fuels loan fund project were at the State Capitol Wednesday to receive the group's final loan payment.

A group led by the Southern Oklahoma Development Association of Ardmore has received $477,676 in funding to develop a CNG project. The project includes the conversion of 102 vehicles and construction of two refueling stations in the area.

Participants of the project include the association, the City of Ardmore, Ardmore Public Schools, Carter County Sheriff's Department, Southern Oklahoma Rural Transit and Plainview Schools.

Under this project, 86 vehicles have already been converted including 44 for the City of Ardmore. Ardmore Public Schools had 20 buses converted to run on CNG.

The majority of the vehicle conversions in the Ardmore project have been done by DRV Energy Inc. of Oklahoma City. The firm's president, Mark Harris, has been involved in the project since 1990. DRV Energy helped the group design its program and do the economics on the cost of their preliminary studies, Harris said.

After first discussing possibilities for a CNG program with officials of the City of Ardmore, "we came up with the concept of a co-op," Harris said.

"It's kind of a dream when we have three or four different entities come together to put a big compressor in and utilize one centralized refueling facility.

"CNG is such an expensive project, it's better if you have a lot of different people involved in the conversion end of it doing a co-op to support the cost of a large compressor. …

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