Phoenix always looking for alternative fuels - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Phoenix always looking for alternative fuels

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Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 3:26 pm, Thu Dec 13, 2012.

The city of Phoenix has invested millions of dollars over the years to make air quality better through the use of alternative fuels in city-run vehicles and continues to look out for what comes next.

Gregg Duckett, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and operations manager for the Public Works Department Equipment Management Division, says the city uses many different types of alternative fuels and has been since the mid-1990s. At that time the city began using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and began testing propane and electric vehicles.

In 2004 the factory stopped making CNG vehicles so the city began to look at Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and different types of biofuels.

Now, the city has 1,019 CNG vehicles, 327 LNG vehicles and 1,209 vehicles using biofuel including E85 and B20, which are both made partially from organic substances. In the past fiscal year, 63 percent of the total fuel used by the city was alternative fuel.

"Overall we have used 12.7 million gallons of alternative fuel," said Duckett, who tracks the city's use of fuel throughout the year. "That means cleaner air for you and I."

He says all these improvements in alternative fuels don't cost the taxpayers anything extra.

"The CNG and LNG vehicles cost more up front but the price of fuel is much cheaper," Duckett said. "CNG right now is running about $2.30 a gallon compared to diesel, which can be almost $4 in some cases. LNG is even cheaper. It's $1.30 per gallon but it costs a bit more for the equipment. Bio diesel we've been paying $3.26. With E85 we're actually saving money because we're getting such a great deal with a local vendor."

The local vendor is Pinal Energy out of Maricopa. They make E85 as efficiently as they can. Whatever organic materials are not used in the production of the fuel are sold to local dairies for food for the cows. The company also captures carbon dioxide and recycles it for use in soft drinks and dry ice made in Arizona.

"Our fuel is American grown you might say," Duckett noted.

Many of the city buses are using alternative fuel, including 125 buses at the airport using CNG. Many police cars are also able to use E85. Duckett said the city has more than 1,250 vehicles that could use E85 but, so far, the city only has four fueling stations.

Even with so much alternative fuel use going on the city is not stopping there. It's currently testing some heavy-duty garbage trucks that use CNG as well as some hybrid and electric cars.

"We're always looking to see what works," Duckett said. "In Arizona we have an extreme summer so we have to test for at least a year to get enough fuel data. We want to make sure the vehicles are running OK and they can make it through a year. You have to use them on a regular basis just like the rest of the vehicles and see how they hold up."

So far in the test Duckett says CNG garbage trucks are doing well and that may be a way for the city to save some money on fuel in the future.

He says the purchasing of fuels, making sure it is transported to the different vehicles through the city, and tracking the use of it is all part of his department's job. He also keeps an eye out for federal grants that could lead to more fuel efficient vehicles and applies for those.

"We're trying to look out for the people and trying to make these vehicles run cleaner," Duckett said. "Where possible, we're trying to reduce the amount of petroleum that is being imported into the U.S. We try to use homegrown fuel and we're always looking to see what is next on the horizon."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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