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CNG Classroom

Value Added: Converting to CNG will take natural gas filling stations and an infrastructure to support the new cleaner burning vehicles. CNG industry leaders attended the grand opening of a new training facility at Tulsa Tech.
CNG Classroom

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Tulsa Tech

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Show 1204: Value Added - CNG Classroom

Air date: January 22, 2012



Rob: Well, energy independence, or at least the lessening of our dependence on foreign oil, is something every presidential administration in my memory has talked about. In that time, the U.S. has fought a couple of wars in the Middle East while also watching the price of fuel skyrocket. Still, our use of foreign oil just continues to grow. But thanks to new technology, we may be closer to breaking the grip on our foreign oil addiction. Under American soil are vast reserves of clean burning natural gas. In fact, global energy leaders estimate that this country now has twice the energy reserves of Saudi Arabia. The question now is, how do we convert our energy needs to this new domestic fuel?

Rob: When it comes to solving our country’s dependence on foreign oil there’s been no shortage of suggestions: wind turbines; nuclear energy; solar bank; energy-efficient windows; energy-efficient homes; hydro; American coal; solar panels; ethanol, not just from corn; atomic power; wood chips and stalks; or switchgrass.

Rob: Most viable, but all far from reality, unlike natural gas that is both abundant and increasingly available.

I’ve had my CNG car for about a year and a half now. I absolutely love it, haven’t had any problems. It’s great for the environment; and I pay a dollar thirty-nine a gallon.

Rob: And not only less than half the price of gasoline, but also a much cleaner burning fuel.

I’ve had my CNG for about a year and a half, and it’s great. I love it. It costs me about $8 to fill up and lasts me the entire week, so on average I’m spending about $8 a week on natural gas to get around. You know, everyone asks me about my car and they ask, and they say you know how much does it cost you to fill up? And you know I’m like, uh, it’s a dollar thirty-nine as opposed to four on their end.

Rob: So if CNG is both cheaper and better for the environment, what’s the holdup? Well, that comes down to just one word: infrastructure, which is what we will spend much of our time discussing today. Joining me now is our Courtenay DeHoff.

Courtenay: Rob, if the U.S. is to convert to domestically produced CNG, it will take not only natural gas filling stations, but also the infrastructure to support the new cleaner burning vehicles, which is why leaders in the industry were in attendance at the grand opening of a new training facility at Tulsa Tech.

Courtenay: they are rolling in.


Courtenay: And rolling out fuel for the future at Tulsa Tech’s newly renovated automotive training facility. Energy advocates from across the country were on hand as they unveiled the state-of-the-art classroom, and none better known than T. Boone Pickens.

T Boone Pickens: But we’re moving in the right direction, but we’ve got a long way to go. There are 13 million vehicles now in the world on natural gas, and in the United States we have 140,000, so here we have more natural gas than any other country in the world, and we have only 140,000 vehicles on natural gas. Well, that is going to change. In five years, the oil and gas industry will look vastly different than it does today.

Courtenay: And Oklahoma will be at the forefront of that change says CareerTech’s Phil Berkenbile.

Phil Berkenbile: This is going to be the cutting edge, like I said, for not only Oklahoma but for America. And that’ll help this state so much. We waste so much natural gas because we don’t use it. And we could be doing so much with it in our vehicles, in our homes, in our everyday factories.

Courtenay: And the logistics to make it all happen will take place right in Tulsa Tech’s classrooms. Tulsa Tech Superintendent Dr. Kara Gae Neal.

Kara Gae Neal: This facility that Tulsa Tech has is a perfect example of training for transportation, automotive, robotics and manufacturing. We do alternative fuels, we do CNG conversion, we do electric. The important thing is to know that high school students for free, and adults for a modest cost, can take training that is high-tech, high-touch, high-wage. And we call those gold collar jobs because that is going to be the demand in the workplace for the future.

Courtenay: And what goes on in the classroom looks similar to every other classroom in America, but students here are actually looking into the future.

Leo Van Delft: The trend right now when it comes to energy, there doesn’t seem to be any one solution to our energy needs when it comes to vehicles.

Courtenay: Tulsa Technology Center recognizes that there not only is a need for alternative fuel vehicles, but for an educated workforce in the field, and that is where their alternative fuel program plays a big role. Leo Van Delft is with Tulsa technology center.

Leo Van Delft: It’s a combination of high school and adults. And the adults will complete this program in nine months and will be well versed and trained and certified in compressed natural gas and hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles.

Courtenay: The drive towards alternative fuel is nothing new, but with today’s economy it’s becoming much more prevalent.

Leo Van Delft: Twenty years ago, the movement towards compressed natural gas and propane powered vehicles was pretty strong and as gas prices went back down it kind of went away, but this go-round is a lot different because we know our economic viability is dependent on our energy right now both nationally as well as in the state of Oklahoma. So we know it’s not going away this go-round.

Courtenay: And this go-round, the state of Oklahoma will have the workforce to operate and repair such vehicles. And students like Marques Miles are eager to learn.

Marques Miles: I’m really interested in it because you know I don’t like gas prices going up every day. I mean I wake up in the morning, and it’s one price, and I go to sleep it’s another price, you know. But knowing like, natural gas, they made a car, they made this new Honda Civic, natural gas, you can fill it up at your house. You don’t have to go to the gas station, so I’m like yeah, that’s awesome. I’m like, I want to be a part of that.

Courtenay: James Johnson has driven a truck for 30 years, but knows new opportunities lie ahead on down the road.

James Johnson: I got into this class because it seems that everything is geared toward CNG and all of the new fuels. And I kind of wanted to get a jump on the industry. I do realize that they have very few techs that are able to service the vehicles, and so being that this is the first class, I thought that I would be one of those techs that would be needed.

Courtenay: And as the demand for CNG vehicles rises, it will be met with Oklahoma technicians ready to work.

Kara Gae Neal: CareerTech is the answer to the nation in training for the next workforce.

Courtenay: Just over 1 percent of the 13 million vehicles in this country are run on natural gas, but training programs like Tulsa Tech’s are hoping to increase the numbers.

Rob: So this sounds like such a great opportunity. Why are there not more of these vehicles out on the road?

Courtenay: Rob, it’s just the lack of infrastructure. They have nowhere to fill up these cars, and we don’t have the workforce to maintain these vehicles. But with new training programs like this, we’re bound to see it change.

Rob: All right. Thanks, Courtenay.