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Locals learn about alternative fuels at Roadshow

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PSC Tim Echols hosts Alternative Fueled Vehicles Roadshow PSC Tim Echols hosts Alternative Fueled Vehicles Roadshow
Liberty Utilities truck gets powered up with Compressed Natural Gas Liberty Utilities truck gets powered up with Compressed Natural Gas
COLUMBUS, Ga. -

As gas prices continue to rise, Georgia officials hit the road to show off some alternative fuels. At Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols's 4th Annual Alternative Fueled Vehicles Roadshow, there were some small electric cars as to be expected, but you could also see pickup trucks and even a snazzy Porsche hybrid.

The commissioner says Georgia has been slow to go green compared to other states, but people are starting to show interest. "
What I'd really like to see Columbus do," he says, "is go all in on electric cars because it's easy to get around this area in a 100-mile range, and I want people to take advantage of the savings we have through the legislature on their tax returns."

He explains that Georgia provides a $5,000 tax credit to people who use alternative fueled vehicles, and there are even more savings on top of that. Echols says, "Be prepared for a little inconvenience in your life, but as I teach my kids, money is money, and the savings that you experience off of that is worth it. Our family has an electric car, and it costs only about $20-$25 a month to charge that car."

Right now, there are not many places to power up an electric car around Columbus or pump natural gas publicly. Liberty Utilities is working to change that, however. The company has already started buying its own Compressed Natural Gas fleet, and has been encouraging other local businesses to make the switch.

President Roger Garms says, "Their main concern is, if we go that direction, where will we get the fuel? And of course, that's the business that we're in at Liberty Utilities and we're willing to provide that fuel for them."

By next year, Liberty hopes to open a couple fueling stations in town for public use. "I think it's the way to go," says Garms. "It's a no-brainer. It really is. It's an opportunity for fleet operators to save lots of dollars, and they can invest those dollars in other vehicles that are more fuel-efficient."

Liberty saves between $1.25 and $1.50 a gallon using natural gas.

Commissioner Echols also talked about ethanol, or E85, which Georgia produces with its own corn crops. He says, "If you have a vehicle that says FlexFuel on the back, it will run on this ethanol. Most of this is from south Georgia corn, 12 and a half million bushels of south Georgia corn go into the Southwest Georgia Ethanol Plant and produce E85. It's kind of like moonshine.

Echols goes on to say, "It's kind of like racecar fuel. You get power, you save about 50 cents a gallon, and it's a secret that not many Georgians are taking advantage of."

The Muscogee County Sheriff's Office has started using FlexFuel cars with ethanol.

Groome Transportation has also made an alternative fuel switch to propane gas for the company's vans.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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