CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- T.J. Meadows said he frequently hears concerns that vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas don't get much acceleration. However, after driving one, "a lot of folks can't tell," said Meadows, West Virginia business manager for IGS Energy-CNG Services."Natural Gas: The Future" was the topic of a panel discussion Monday night at the University of Charleston.Meadows, along with Mary Beth Anderson, director of corporate development at Chesapeake Energy, state Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox and Henry Harmon, president and CEO of Triana Energy, all touted the natural gas industry in West Virginia.Much of the conversation centered on the benefits of converting vehicles to run off compressed natural gas.Meadows said using compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel creates 30 percent less carbon dioxide than gasoline or diesel fuel, makes 75 percent less carbon monoxide and produces 95 percent less particulate matter. At the same time, natural gas is 30 to 50 percent cheaper than gasoline and diesel, with an average cost of about $2.10 for the equivalent of a gallon.Mattox spoke about the process of converting the state's fleet of vehicles to be fueled by compressed natural gas. And, as Gov. Early Ray Tomblin announced earlier this year, the Interstate 79 corridor will be dotted with four compressed natural gas filling stations by 2014."It's the trend," Mattox said about compressed natural gas versus propane.
"Kudos to the state for taking a look at what the market is responding to," Meadows said.The state is, however, considering converting to propane-powered school buses, Mattox said.As more and more vehicles convert, small changes will make things easier, Meadows said.For example, he said, the EPA certification process for a kit to change over a vehicle to use compressed natural gas costs about $100,000, he said.And the kit used for a 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche isn't interchangeable with a 2012 of the same model, he said."Small changes will be beneficial to the market," he said.Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org