Alternatives fuel energetic discussion

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Representative Ray Scott

Efforts continue to use more of the resources produced in Colorado to fuel transportation, whether in the form of compressed natural gas, propane or electricity.

“We have an incredible abundance of natural resources here in Colorado — natural gas, natural gas liquids, you name it. And yet we are importing

70 percent of our refined fuels from out of state. What we are doing is looking at how we can use more of the fuels we drill for here instead of importing gasoline from other states,” said State Rep. Ray Scott.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Junction, hosted some of the biggest names in energy in the state for a roundtable discussion of alternative fuels and the vehicles they power.

Participants in the event at Colorado Mesa University included Tom Hunt from the Colorado Energy Office; Paul Brown, president of Monument Oil; Grier Bailey, governmental affairs manager for the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association; Pam Roth, government affairs manager for WPX Energy; Greg Dighero, natural gas liquids manager for EnCana; and Larry Osgood from the Propane Marketers Association.

Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, also attended, as did State Rep. Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, and elected officials from the City of Grand Junction and Mesa County.

Scott said that the purpose of the discussion was to discuss the current and potential uses of Colorado-produced resources and how to promote increased use of those resources.

Dighero said four requirements must be met to promote increased use of alternative fuels: economic incentives, available vehicles; service and infrastructure.

“We have available vehicles on the market,” said Dighero, who brought his propane-fueled pickup to the event to demonstrate the viability of alternate fuels. “We need to work on economic incentives, possibly through rebates or tax incentives; ensure the availability of qualified mechanics; and, most importantly, build the fueling infrastructure.”

Scott reported progress on the legislative front in the enactment of  a law that encourages the use of alternate fuel sources for the state motor vehicle fleet system.

Jackson said he’s enthusiastic about the future of alternative fuels. “The U.S. auto industry that was on the equivalent of its death bed during the recent recession is making an amazing transformation, introducing a wide assortment of alternative power sources, much-improved fuel economy and vehicles with much longer longevity.”

Jackson pointed out that several of the vehicles discussed at the forum and displayed afterwards — including propane-powered trucks and compressed natural gas and electric-powered cars — came from local automotive dealers.

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said she was impressed and encouraged by what she heard and saw. “It’s great that we are starting a conversation on alternative fuels and seeing what we can develop here.”

Pugliese said Colorado Mesa University is well-positioned to research the technology.

By coincidence, a CNG-powered car assembled by students in a Western Colorado Community College program was displayed as part of a separate event on the CMU campus. The community college is part of CMU.

John Loibl, an instructor at Western Colorado Community College, displayed the CNG conversion kit students installed in the 16-year old car and talked about the ease of that installation. “I would seriously think about opening a shop and putting these in myself,” Loibl said. “If we can take a car this old and make it run efficiently on CNG, just think about how well a new vehicle would run on it.”

Scott said there could be local economic benefits from increased use of alternative fuels. “This is about job creation, economic benefits and clean air, all in one package.”

Pugliese agreed. “We need jobs, and we can’t wait for someone else to create them for us. We need to start looking for solutions here at home.”

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Kelly Sloan is a Grand Junction resident, freelance journalist, small business owner and Centennial Institute fellow on energy and economic policy. He specializes in public policy and political communications.
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