Experts explain how to fuel up on natural gas - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Experts explain how to fuel up on natural gas

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BROOKFIELD TWP., Ohio - Lawmakers and business investors are searching for more ways to benefit from the shale boom. 

A summit at Yankee Ballroom in Brookfield Thursday, focused on fueling vehicles with natural gas.
Some local lawmakers and industry leaders describe it as the next energy revolution.

Grant money to convert vehicle fleets is already available in Pennsylvania. The Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant Program offers grant money for fleets of at least five vehicles that weigh more than 14,000 pounds. A grant program for fleets under 14,000 pounds is expected to begin in the late spring of 2014.

Ohio representatives including Rep. Sean O'Brien and Rep. Nick Barborak, have proposed a bill that would offer $16 million - grant money to cover conversion costs for vehicle fleets owned by municipalities. 

"If that passes, and we're going to work hard to make sure that happens, there will be money available for public fleets to convert, there will also be tax incentives for private individuals and companies to take advantage of in order to convert to natural gas," Barborak says.

Infrastructure to support the industry would need to be built, music to the ears of the local trade unions.

The plumbers and pipefitters union has seen its apprenticeship rate triple this year, as interest and the potential for new jobs in the sector grows.

"Right now where we had just 30 apprentices, we have 90 apprentices coming out of the industry, plus an extra 100 new members within the industry with the welding components," Butch Taylor says, with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 396.

While converting vehicles to run on compressed natural gas can boast fuel-cost savings over time, some businesses and local governments at the summit are still uncertain if the initial switch-over will be affordable.

The Trumbull County Engineer's Office has applied for grant money to pay for a feasibility study. The study would examine if the county can afford such an endeavor. 

"If we could reduce our fuel costs, that will reduce our dependency for more taxation or any taxpayer dollars that come in," Jack Simon says, RUMA Coordinator with the engineer's office.

Simon says the engineer's office would like to convert snow plows and utility vehicles first if conversions are done in the future. 

The engineer's office is also studying natural gas lines to determine where an alternative fuel station could be installed to keep the vehicles running. 

 

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