Compressed Natural Gas Could Help Cut Fuel Costs

CHICAGO (CBS) — The average price for regular unleaded in Chicago is $4.45 a gallon, 60 cents more than the national average of $3.85, according to AAA. But CBS 2’s Mike Parker found gas selling for $2.65 a gallon.

It’s not your typical gas, it’s compressed natural gas, and it could save you a bundle.

Chicago concrete company executive Marty Ozinga said, “We have this abundant supply right here at home that can solve this energy crisis.”

A year ago, Ozinga began converting the Ozinga Brothers fleet of familiar red and white striped concrete trucks to compressed natural gas (CNG), which is cheaper than gasoline or diesel fuel. Now, 30 of Ozinga’s trucks fill up at the pumping station at his Pilsen concrete plant.

“By 2020, we don’t plan to be using any diesel fuel at all. We’ll be completely natural gas,” he said.

Ozinga has opened his pumping facility to other local businesses, and local governments that operate vehicles with engines converted to use CNG.

Right now, the city of Chicago operates 93 natural gas-powered vehicles. The Chicago Park District runs 34 more, and still more are expected.

A Chicago Department of Transportation official said he doesn’t think the use of natural gas by everyday commuters is in the near future, because of the lack of pumping stations.

CDOT Acting Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly said, “I think for fleet vehicles, in particular, it’s a great fuel source, because it’s economical.

A Marathon station on the Near South Side is one of only 17 CNG pumping stations in Chicago.

Compared to more than $4.50 a gallon for its gasoline, the station’s $2.65 price for natural gas looks good. But because the number of stations is so small, it’s been tough to sell CNG vehicles like the Honda Civic model that runs on natural gas.

Ozinga hopes to change that.

“It’s inevitable that it’s coming, because this country — some people say it’s the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” Ozinga said. “It’s inevitable, it’s going to be here, because it reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and this is an opportunity for this country. It’s a game changer, economically, for everybody in this country.”

There are also more than 300 natural gas powered taxis in Chicago, but drivers wrestle with a recurring problem – not enough stations where they can fill up.

More from Mike Parker
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