By Gary Lloyd
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program is marking two decades of progress in the deployment of alternative fuels, advanced vehicles, fuel economy improvements and other local strategies to cut petroleum use in transportation.
The Department of Energy launched the national program in 1993, and the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has been a contributor to the program’s mission in Alabama since its incorporation as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2002.
A press release from the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition last week recognized Trussville, Hoover, Gadsden, Vestavia Hills, Mobile and Lee County.
“Our goal is to help our members to leverage resources, develop joint projects and work together to increase our use of alternative fuels that save money, reduce pollution and create jobs here at home,” said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “If Clean Cities has accomplished this much in the first 20 years, imagine what we can do in the next 20 years.”
Nationwide, Clean Cities activities have saved more than five billion gallons of petroleum and averted more than 34 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the course of the program’s history. The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition and its stakeholders have led the charge in Alabama, saving almost 3.67 million gallons of petroleum in 2012 alone.
“The key to Clean Cities’ enduring success over two decades is its proven ability to build relationships,” said Clean Cities National Director Dennis Smith. “Through the coalitions, stakeholders learn from one another’s experiences, replicate past successes, and work together on projects and events. This kind of collaboration creates economies of scale for alternative fuels and tipping points of demand for advanced vehicles, so petroleum is no longer the only game in town.”
A compressed natural gas pump at the Chevron station on Deerfoot Parkway in Trussville opened in March.
The CNG dispensing station is the result of a public-private partnership. The Trussville Utilities Board loaned McCullough Oil $1.08 million for the project and will be repaid with part of the proceeds of CNG sales.
The city of Trussville already uses CNG to operate 40 city vehicles, from police cruisers to dump trucks. Those vehicles will fuel up at the Happy Hollow Chevron, and the public can also use the dispenser.
Trussville Mayor Gene Melton said CNG is far less costly for the city, and it’s a domestic fuel source that burns cleaner than traditional gasoline.
“This year, with our current fleet of CNG vehicles, the city will save $100,000 or more in fuel costs,” Melton said in March. “Next year, as we convert more vehicles, we could see those savings double.”
The Trussville CNG fueling station is one of five in the state. There are others in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Pell City and Evergreen.
Melton has said that a domestic fuel source is less financially insecure than a foreign one. CNG vehicles can accumulate up to 15,000 miles between oil changes and require less maintenance than traditional fuel-burning vehicles, Melton said.
The gas is pressurized to 3,600 psi and in the event of a fuel tank breach, it simply dissipates rather than igniting. The CNG pump connects much like a larger version of a tire pump and is air-tight. The pump constantly monitors the amount of fuel entering the vehicle and adjusts pressure accordingly.
The compression tanks that hold the CNG can fill 10 large city vehicles before running out. The pumps then shut off for about eight minutes until they automatically and completely refill.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.