By Kyle LoJacono
Marc DeMarcus cringes as he sees the fuel indicator in his truck slip closer and closer to E.
The story is similar for most drivers, but the Wesley Chapel resident does so from behind the wheel of his diesel truck he uses for his hauling business.
“It takes a lot to fill it up,” said Marcus, whose business base is in southern Pasco and northern Hillsborough counties. “It’s usually between $80 and $100 if it’s completely empty, and I usually have to get diesel two times a week.”
Pasco and Hillsborough counties are looking at ways to take some of the sting out of filling up both diesel and conventional gas tanks during the next few years.
The Pasco Commission is contemplating adding compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations as a way to reduce the cost and pollution from operating diesel-powered trash trucks. Once established, such facilities could be used by school buses, other county vehicles and the general public.
“Maybe we can start down the road of bringing natural gas instead of diesel and everything else associated with that,” said County Administrator John Gallagher.
Gallagher, along with Commissioner Henry Wilson, said they don’t want to force the switch by trash collectors, which are private companies contracted to work within Pasco. They instead predict the switch to CNG would happen voluntarily once the option is available.
“We want to make sure we have all the haulers, both the large and small ones, switch their fleet,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the reduced cost will likely be a draw for the voluntary switch, but only if there are enough fueling stations so haulers know they can fill up anywhere into the future. A new natural gas powered garbage truck runs around $35,000 more than a diesel one, but the cost for a gallon of CNG is only about $2.
The first stations would be installed at the landfills in Dade City and Shady Hills. They would later be added near the intersection of SR 54 and Gunn Highway because of its heavy traffic volume.
Wilson said there are no set plans for additional expansion, but did say “Once usage picks up we would start putting them in other places for school buses and for citizens’ vehicles.” The plan is similar for Pasco’s neighbor to the south.
Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) was recently awarded a $2.3 million federal grant to install CNG stations and make associated modifications to its maintenance facilities.
HART CEO Philip Hale said it is the first step to transitioning the organization’s vans and buses away from diesel toward CNG.
“Natural gas offers a cost-effective alternative to diesel fuel,” Hale, said. “Natural gas is available domestically and at this time, costs approximately 20-25 percent less than diesel.”
The goal is to have the new equipment up and running by the end of 2013.
DeMarcus said he likes the idea of having fuel options like CNG.
“I’ve actually looked into getting a natural gas truck before because I’m thinking of getting a new one anyway,” DeMarcus said. “I’ve heard (CNG) is a lot cheaper, but I also heard it’s hard to find places to fill up at. … If there were enough of them around so I’d know I had places to get it, sure I’d buy a truck that runs on (CNG).”