OPINION: Natural gas taking off as a transportation fuel

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Discover the growing use and power of natural gas and why this transportation fuel is taking off.

By Carl Lisek

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I like old time phrases and sayings, like “Now you’re cooking with gas!”

The phrase – meaning you’re on the right track – was devised by the natural gas industry in the 1930s in an effort to get the public to start using their natural gas-powered stoves. It was often used during radio shows and quickly caught on with popular entertainers of the era, including big band, swing and jazz bands who used it as praise for musicians’ well-executed fast-paced solos.

While natural gas quickly caught on as a popular source for cooking, heating and electricity generation, it also began being used as a transportation fuel around the same time.

The U.S. Department of Energy reports natural gas also powers more than 175,000 vehicles in the United States and roughly 23 million vehicles worldwide. According to Argonne National Laboratory, light-duty vehicles running on natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent and as much as 84 percent if running on renewable natural gas. Because CNG fuel systems are completely sealed, the vehicles produce no emissions.

It’s no wonder, then, that natural gas for transportation is becoming a popular choice at the local level.

The Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund Committee in July awarded nearly $500,000 for projects involving compressed natural gas vehicles in Lake and LaPorte counties, including $107,244 for two CNG dump trucks for the City of Hobart, $171,133 for three dump trucks for the Michigan City Sanitary District and $209,211 for three CNG refuse trucks for Homewood Disposal in Gary.

We’re proud to say all three awardees are South Shore Clean Cities members.

Michigan City now has 11 CNG vehicles and won the Partners for Clean Air municipal award in 2019 and the 2018 South Shore Clean Cities NIRPC Green Fleet award for the city’s environmental efforts.

Hobart began using compressed natural gas as the transportation fuel of choice in their refuse trucks in 2014 with the help of South Shore Clean Cities and has added more CNG trucks to its fleet in the following years.

In January 2018, the City of Hobart unveiled its new fast-fill CNG gas pumps at its Public Works facility and specially designed CNG vehicle maintenance garage, both of which were made possible in part by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant from the Federal Highway Administration administered by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and acquired with the assistance of South Shore Clean Cities.

Both Hobart and Michigan City partnered with our member Ozinga for help in implementing CNG fueling for their fleets. In 2011, Ozinga pledged to convert all 500 vehicles in its fleet to compressed natural gas by 2020.

South Shore Clean Cities, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission & the City of Hobart are partnering for a Natural Gas for Transportation Roundtable from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Hobart Public Works Department at 1840 E. State Rd. 130. The SSCC/NIRPC Green Fleet program event will including networking opportunities with natural gas experts, presentations on fleet experiences with compressed natural gas, information on how to improve your fleet’s carbon footprint and a chance to explore a variety of natural gas vehicles on display.

The event is free, but registration is required. Registration is available on our Website at www.southshorecleancities.org or by calling our office at (219) 644-3690.

Remember, it’s never too late to being your environmental legacy.

This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

Like learning about the future of the transportation fuel industry? Read more opinion pieces by expert Carl Lisek here!

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