Alternative fuel options to reduce carbon footprint

Athens County is examining the feasibility of powering all of its vehicles with natural gas that county commissioners say would be obtained and installed locally if possible.

Should the county decide to retrofit its vehicles with natural gas capabilities, it would consider doing so through Hocking College’s Logan Campus, said Larry Long, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

Hocking College does not charge installation fees for modifying cars to use natural gas, but the customer must pay for the kit itself, which can range from $1,000 to more than $3,000, said James Baker, a teacher in Hocking College’s automotive program.

“Any monies I can keep in Athens County, I will do my utmost to do that,” said Commissioner Charlie Adkins.

Natural gas technology is more reliable and easier on the motor of a car than gasoline, said Baker, who drives a car equipped to use natural gas.

“It’s all around a better fuel,” Baker said. “The fact that it’s cheaper and the emissions it gives out are pretty much carbon dioxide and water.”

Equipping cars to run on natural gas could save both money and reduce the county’s carbon footprint, a part of the county’s participation in a competitive grant that would boost funding for environmental projects.

“We’re looking at ways to take methane from our wastewater treatment plants,” Commissioner Chris Chmiel said. “It’s just a part of a bigger picture of energy efficiency.”

Methane is chemically the same as natural gas, Chmiel added.

The county’s Meals on Wheels program, a program that delivers meals to the elderly, already has switched to a similar fuel, propane in their vehicles, Chmiel said.

“They’ve switched their vehicles over to propane and they’ve been able to get their (fuel) cheap,” Chmiel said. “Each vehicle can use both propane and gasoline.”

If the county were to convert its vehicles to natural gas, it would need to install filling stations, something the federal government has set aside grant money for, Long said.

“Technically it’s a cost to reducing our carbon footprint,” said Long. “It’s not money I get in my pocket, it’s more of a societal benefit.”

Concerns arise that the use of natural gas technology may reduce the performance of some cars; a difference Long said is minimal.

“(There is) some reluctance among law enforcement community because they are not sure they will have the same pickup.” Long said.

Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers said he was not familiar with any police departments that use natural gas to power their vehicles, but would be open to the technology if it proved to be feasible and easy to use.

After grant money is secured, the commissioners association will begin educating people on the benefits and practicality of natural gas, Long said.

The County is still in the process of applying for the grant.

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