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Rocky runs on natural gas

He parks SUV, buys alternative fuel compact car

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The Flower Patch, the Salt Lake City International Airport, Questar and Mayor Rocky Anderson now have something in common: Their vehicles run on natural gas.

This week Anderson, after many months of decrying the effects of traditional automobile transportation, parked his "heavily polluting" Chevy Suburban and paid $12,000 for an alternative-fueled Honda Civic.

The 1999 Civic, about a third of the size of the mayor's SUV, can go three times as far on one gallon of natural gas. And with natural gas running around $1 a gallon, "I'm looking to save $616 in fuel alone this year," Anderson said. Those savings, plus tax credits for buyers of alternative-fuel vehicles make up for the initial purchase price, which Anderson acknowledged is higher than for traditional cars.

"Many people are unaware that these vehicles exist and are obtainable in Utah," he added. Besides Honda, Ford, Chrysler and GM alternative fuel models are available through dealers here, and a dozen natural gas fueling stations operate in and near the Salt Lake Valley.

The mayor's Civic joins about 4,500 alternative-fuel cars and trucks driven by Utahns. The state offers individuals and businesses tax credits of up to $3,000 for each new vehicle purchased.

"Not a lot of regular people drive these yet, said Beverly Miller, the Salt Lake coordinator of the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program. "But Rocky's a regular person who bought this" for his personal vehicle.

When asked what would become of the Suburban, the mayor said he hadn't yet decided.

Anderson often decries the fact that air pollution sometimes turns the Salt Lake Valley into an unsafe place for outdoor exercise. This week he was clearly pleased with his long-planned purchase of a natural-gas-powered car, as well as the city's plan to add 37 AFVs to its fleet, thanks to a $175,000 Department of Energy grant. The street-sweepers, airport pickup trucks and other utility vehicles will beef up the AFV stock in the valley; Jordan School District buses, Flower Patch delivery vans, 650 state vehicles and 800 Questar trucks run on natural gas.

Information about AFVs is available on the Clean Cities Web site, www.ccities.doe.gov.

E-MAIL: durbani@desnews.com