IRVING - Few government agencies rack up miles like the Texas Department of Transportation - and now the leadership is making an effort to go a bit greener.
On Wednesday, four Ford F 350 trucks powered by compressed natural gas were rolled out, as part of a pilot program to see whether more of the transportation department's fleet of roughly 10,000 vehicles can be successfully powered by something other than gasoline or diesel.
"Today, the state's largest fleet operator is taking advantage of the state's largest natural resource," said Bill Meadows of Fort Worth, a Texas Transportation Commission member. Meadows addressed a small crowd at a Clean Energy fuel station near Belt Line Road and Rock Island Road in Irving.
Compressed natural gas costs about 40 percent less than gasoline, said Julie Wilson, Chesapeake Energy vice president of corporate development.
Right now, the biggest issue is access to CNG for ordinary motorists. That's a problem mainly because, unlike fueling stations that feature gas and diesel, places to refuel with CNG are relatively few and far between.
But many in the industry feel that that could change in the near future. Many corporations and government entities that operate large fleets are converting vehicles to CNG, said James S. Ramsey III, business development manager for Clean Energy. His company operates 279 CNG fueling stations in places such as Texas and California.
If enough fleets convert to CNG, the number of places to refuel will likely expand, making CNG a more attractive option for everyday motorists to use the pumps. Speaking of which, for those who are curious, anyone with a credit card can use the Clean Energy pumps near Belt Line Road and Rock Island Road. (The actual address is 128 N. Briery Road in Irving.)
Converting some of the state transportation department's pickup fleet to CNG fits in with the region's mission to improve its air quality, and comply with federal clean-air laws, said Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
"This particular vehicle will travel for $1 less per gallon," Morris said. "It aids in creating the demand for a fueling network."
Photo: James S. Ramsey III, Clean Energy business development manager, fills a Texas Department of Transportation pickup with natural gas Wednesday at a fueling site in Irving.