Official: NWI ahead of the nation in alternative fuel use

2013-03-16T00:00:00Z Official: NWI ahead of the nation in alternative fuel useLauri Harvey Keagle, (219) 852-4311

Carl Lisek, executive director of South Shore Clean Cities, said Northwest Indiana already is leading the nation in reducing dependence on foreign oil.

In 2012, the group was lauded by the U.S. Department of Energy for having the largest petroleum use reduction in the country.

"We're boots on the ground working with our fleets and our government agencies on lessing our dependence on foreign oil," Lisek said.

Clean Cities is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy and works to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and petroleum consumption in transportation while promoting environmental and energy independence through the use of alternative fuels.

"From a business perspective, we're seeing people can be green but also can save green," Lisek said.

Lisek said Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete Inc. is a prime example. In 2012, the company changed its fleet of cement mixers to compressed natural gas power.

"They're trying to do the right thing and saving money," he said. "They'll have a return on their investment in three years without any tax incentives."

Lisek said South Shore Clean Cities also is working with Argonne National Laboratories on a program encouraging drivers — public and private — to reduce idling in petroleum-powered vehicles.

"It's a matter of training to teach the community that to be green, you don't have to buy alternative fuel vehicles," he said. "A lot of it is turning off your engine."

Efforts toward fuel economy in vehicles also has made an impact, he said.

Lisek said he is getting more and more calls from companies interested in locating in Northwest Indiana and using alternative fuels.

"I think it is a good sign, about the economy and reducing dependence on foreign oil," Lisek said. "Hopefully we'll be seeing more people going back to work."

Lisek said other plans are under way in the region, including working with NIPSCO to roll out public electric car charging stations.

"In 2013, we're going to make the biggest impact on alternative fuels in our area," he said.

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