Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
As part of a pilot program to cut fuel costs and reduce harmful emissions, some Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) trucks will roll along state highways on natural gas. Officials announced the Compressed Natural Gas program on Nov. 14 at the Clean Energy Fuel Station where four new TxDOT trucks were filled on the gasoline alternative.
“This is a great day for TxDOT,” said Margaret Keliher, executive director for Texas Business for Clean Air. “With this program, TxDOT will continue to promote clean air efforts.
“It’s a win-win program,” Keliher told a crowd at the Clean Energy Fuel Station. “The program uses a Texas product, is produced by Texas employees, and will help clean up Texas air and help the Texas economy.”
The program comes at a time when residents living in or near large cities are looking for ways to minimize pollution. This year, during the ozone forecast season, which runs from March 1 to the end of October, the Metroplex was out of compliance 36 days, according to Michael Morris, director of Transportation North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The Council is working on a range of ways to combat harmful emissions, including creating better mobility, eliminating aggressive drivers and advancing traffic signal systems, but at a cost less than that of gasoline, natural gas is a cost-effective practice, Morris said.
California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. will provide the natural gas to TXDOT, which boasts a fleet of about 10,000 vehicles and is also responsible for some 80,000 miles of roadway in the state.
“Imagine the air quality if all our government vehicles, if our school buses, ran on compressed natural gas,” said Julie Wilson, Chesapeake Energy vice president for corporate development. “Such a movement could lead the way.”
The program is just the start of air quality control efforts, according to Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commission chairman.
“In the future, people will see more chances to get to where they want to go and at the same time, clean the air up,” Houghton said.