Logging the equivalent of 9,128,381 gallons of gas in annual petroleum savings plus 70,566 less tons of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions, the US Department of Energy recognized South Shore Clean Cities for having the top overall improvement in petroleum savings in 2012.
“Through local partnerships with business, industry and state and local government agencies, South Shore Clean Cities has implemented numerous projects utilizing alternative fuels, vehicles, technology and infrastructure that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality,” Executive Director Carl Lisek said. “We're boots on the ground. Along with developing stakeholder partnerships, we provide education and outreach that includes training and acquiring the funding necessary to implement projects.”
Primarily located in major metropolitan areas throughout the US, there are nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions all working together to advance the country’s economic, environmental and energy security by supporting local actions to reduce petroleum consumption in transportation. South Shore Clean Cities was recognized as the 71st coalition in 1999. Lisek and his wife Lorrie came on board in 2006, serving 19 counties in northern Indiana with the goal of helping the region become one of the nation’s most progressive alternative fuel leaders.
“There are hundreds of ways to reduce petroleum use, reaping the benefits of lower emissions, cost savings and energy security,” Lisek explained. “Knowing where to start and selecting the options that work best for individual needs and goals can be daunting. That’s why we’re here, to educate people. We’re not R&D - our role is to be an advocate for all the benefits of different products that have been brought to market.”
South Shore Clean Cities focuses on strategies as simple as decreasing petroleum use through idle reduction and other fuel-saving technologies and practices. From there, they work to reduce petroleum consumption through smarter driving practices and fuel economy improvements. Most significantly, they are replacing petroleum with alternative and renewable fuels:
• Biodiesel - a renewable fuel manufactured from vegetable, oils, animal fats or recycled cooking grease for use in diesel vehicles.
• Electricity – used to power plug-in electric vehicles.
• Ethanol – a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials blended with gasoline for use in vehicles.
• Hydrogen – a potentially emissions-free alternative fuel that can be produced from domestic resources for use in fuel cell vehicles.
• Natural gas – a domestically abundant gaseous fuel that can have significant advantages over gasoline and diesel fuel.
• Propane – a readily available gaseous fuel that has been used in vehicles throughout the work for decades.
“It's a matter of educating the community,” Lisek said. “You don't have to buy alternative fuel vehicles to make a difference, simply turning off your engine and changing your driving habits can have an impact.”
Beyond that, plug-in hybrids provide flexibility in fueling and charging, while all-electric vehicles can yield significant emissions benefits. South Shore Clean Cities is currently the administrator for Northern Indiana Public Service Company’s (NIPSCO) IN-Charge At Home Electric Vehicle program.
“Through our IN-Charge Electric Vehicle Program, we are working to simplify the charging process by helping install home charging stations and offering free overnight charging,” NIPSCO Vice President of Commercial Operations Karl Stanley said. “Since its launch in April 2012, more than 50 customers have joined the program.”
NIPSCO has also added four of their own electric cars to the company fleet.
“NIPSCO’s THINK City vehicles are 100% electric and were assembled in Elkhart,” Lisek added. “Locally manufactured, they are powered by a lithium ion battery, produce zero emissions, made of 100% recyclable parts and four times more energy-efficient than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. We’re looking forward to the introduction of a new model year from THINK City.”
Other notable examples of alternative fuel use in the region include Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, which has added 30 compressed natural gas (CNG) cement mixers to its fleet. According to Lisek, each Ozinga truck is projected to reduce emissions by 80-90 percent, the equivalent of taking 300 cars off the road.
By 2020, the company plans to replace or convert its entire fleet of more than 500 mixing trucks and support vehicles in an effort to achieve energy independence and promote alternative energy. Ozinga also established the area’s first natural gas fueling station near downtown Chicago, just off the Dan Ryan Expressway. Specifically designed for medium and heavy-use trucks and buses, the station is open to local businesses and government agencies.
US Steel has been utilizing blends of biodiesel in its facility since 2007, which translates to a reduction of millions of gallons of foreign petroleum. They also implemented natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure, as well as clean-locomotive applications within their facilities, according to Lisek.
Tube City IMS, in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and South Shore Clean Cities, brought the second hybrid locomotive to in the country to the region. With roughly an 11-12 gallon per hour reduction in fuel while operating at the same capacity, the hybrid engine will save Tube City more than 26,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year.
“Michigan City utilized more than 147,000 gallons of biodiesel blend in 135 pieces of municipal equipment, including refuse packers, fire engines, sanitation equipment, transit buses, street trucks, off-road heavy equipment, including LaPorte County ambulances and generators," Lisek added. "As a result, the city reduced its CO2 emissions by 261,000 pounds and particulate matter emissions by 106 tons in 12 months."
In addition to a long list of ongoing education opportunities and projects in the works, such as finding the funding necessary to bring propane shuttle buses to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore that will connect visitors with the South Shore Commuter Rail Line as well as local venues, Lisek also fields calls from a great variety of companies interested in alternative fuels and what northern Indiana has to offer.
“That’s where the infrastructure we are creating becomes so important,” he said. “We’re looking forward to making an even bigger impact with alternative fuels in 2013.”