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Utah is bullish on alternative fuels

Published November 12, 2010 6:15 pm

Environment • Cities show support for converting their fleets to natural gas, electricity, biodiesel.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington City • Ivins Mayor Chris Hart is high on natural gas and hopes to cut the southern Utah city's $25,000 annual fuel budget in half by converting the city fleet to the clean burning fuel.

Hart was one of several southern Utah mayors who gathered Friday at the office of Automobile Association of America in Washington City to show support for converting their fleets to alternative fuels that include natural gas, electricity, ethanol and biodiesel.

Zion National Park was given one of AAA's annual Greenlight grants for $10,0000 to help purchase a hybrid vehicle and support its propane-powered shuttle system of 30 vehicles.

"They [Zion] walk the talk," said Robin Erickson, southern Utah director of Utah Clean Cities.

She said Utah Clean Cities is using a $19 million grant it received last year from the U.S. Department of Energy to promote alternative fuels through education, and partnerships with governments and business to develop refueling stations for the alternatives.

Part of the education process is getting drivers to shut off engines rather than idling. "If everybody just turned off their engines for five minutes a day, it would keep 1.6 million tons of particulates from getting into the air," she said.

Erickson said interstates 15 and 80 in Utah are getting attention as some of the biggest trucking corridors in the country. To help accommodate clean-fuel programs, three refueling stations are coming online to offer commercial trucks liquified natural gas.

The first, at the Flying J Truck stop at 845 W. 2100 South in Salt Lake City, will open next month. Two others will be built later in Beaver or St. George and in the Ogden area.

Utah already has more than 20 natural gas filling stations, mostly along I-15, that run by private companies by state or municipal governments. More are on the drawing board, including five stations in Salt Lake City that will be built beginning later this month to charge batteries in electric vehicles.

Rolayne Fairclough, spokeswoman for AAA, said Utah has the second best infrastructure in the country after California for supporting the emerging technologies.

"Alternative fuels are the next chapter in the history of the automobile and AAA is leading the way by funding cutting-edge research and development of sustainable fuel options," she said.

Fairclough said vehicle manufacturers are now providing 60 models that run on alternative fuels.

Jan Miller, who owns St. George Express, a shuttle service between St. George and Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport, said each of the company's six vans runs on natural gas. Since converting, her fuel costs have dropped from $10,000 a month in 2006 to around $3,000 a month.

"We transport about 100 people a day who are not driving their cars or [polluting the air]," said Miller.

mhavnes@sltrib.com