MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - When drivers see the $1.99 per gallon sign at a gas station at U.S. 441 near Northwest 194th Street, it gets their attention. But this isn't gasoline -- it's compressed natural gas (CNG).
"Natural gas is a reality that consumers can start to use it today," said Patrick Sheehan, director of Florida's Office of Energy.
The first public CNG station in Miami-Dade County opened Thursday. The county plans to convert its fleet of buses to CNG.
"Miami-Dade County has roughly about 820 buses in their fleet," said Jorge Herrera, chief executive officer of Nopetro. "If they were to transition all 800 buses, that would probably give the county roughly $15 million a year."
The piped in natural gas is compressed from 7 to 4,500 pounds per square inch in a small plant behind the station. While the miles per gallon is equivalent to gasoline, CNG is about $1.50 cheaper.
CNG conversions can cost between $2,500 to $14,000 depending on the year of the car. Newer models cost more to be EPA complaint.
"If you drive anywhere above 20,000 miles per year, it would make really good sense to switch because you will be paying back your conversion in less than a year," said Charles Wainer, CEO of CNG Holdings.
Florida doesn't tax CNG, and the industry expects more federal and state rebates in the future.
"The commitment level is exceptional and it's a non-partisan commitment, really," said Sheehan.
CNG is 33 percent cleaner than gasoline. The United States is the largest supplier in the world.
"We are committed to open nine stations in the next two years," said Wainer.
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