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Reducing petroleum dependence key to avoiding high gas prices

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Carl Lisek

Carl Lisek

We at Drive Clean Indiana talk a lot about energy resiliency.

It’s the ability to weather a crisis that can impact energy and fuel sources. Those crises can be natural, as in the case of a major weather event like a flood, or created by humans as in the case of geopolitical factors like the war in Ukraine.

Resilience is an issue not many people think about until they have to, and by then it’s often too late. With gas and diesel prices at an all-time high, many are now starting to ask how they can save at the pump and pointing fingers of blame for the reasons behind the rise in costs.

We won’t debate the causes, but rather, offer information on how we can all be part of the solution. One key answer lies in reducing our dependence on oil and petroleum.

One of the key missions of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program is to reduce dependence on imported petroleum by increasing the adoption of clean, affordable domestic fuels and technologies such as electric vehicle charging stations and the vehicles and equipment that support them.

Some choose to adopt sustainable transportation options such as alternative fuel and electric vehicles and equipment because they are passionate about reducing harmful emissions and improving the environment. Others care deeply about supporting fuel and energy sources produced in the United States and the jobs that come with them.

In the end, every organization and individual has a budget, from public, private and nonprofit fleets to individual consumers. With diesel prices reaching $5.55 per gallon and gasoline prices topping $4.50 at the time of this writing, it becomes even more important to work toward support for cleaner fuel and energy sources with more stable, consistent, lower prices.

Compressed natural gas, for example, is 75 cents per gasoline gallon equivalent for municipalities. Many local fleets, including the City of Hobart’s Public Works Department, have embraced CNG in vehicles previously fueled by diesel. Not only are they significantly reducing emissions, they’re reaping significant savings with taxpayer dollars.

We were proud to celebrate with the City of Hobart last month when they welcomed four more CNG refuse vehicles to its fleet, the purchase of which was supported by grant funding secured with the help of Drive Clean Indiana and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Green Fleet Program, which we manage. The addition of grant funding for the purchase of the vehicles helps save even more taxpayer dollars.

Our schools are helping reduce fuel costs with the adoption of propane and electric buses as well. Crown Point Community School Corporation recently added an electric school bus to its fleet, the first in the Region, with help from Drive Clean Indiana and Indiana Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust grant funds. The district anticipates it will save $9,000 a year in fuel and maintenance over the diesel school bus it replaced.

For passenger vehicles, electric vehicles provide significant savings over the lifetime of the vehicle as well. The total cost of ownership savings of an electric passenger vehicle over a gasoline equivalent is about $5,000, according to a recent study by Jefferies.

Individual owners and fleets don’t necessarily have to invest in new vehicles to help reduce petroleum use and cut costs. Reducing idling, implementing anti-idling policies and working to improve gas mileage are things everyone can do. Keeping tires properly inflated, keeping vehicle maintained and combining trips can all make a difference.

Before cursing the high prices at the pump, consider what you can do to help reduce dependence on petroleum.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

Carl Lisek is executive director of Drive Clean Indiana and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer's.

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