9 Investigates the natural gas shortage in Florida

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. —

The county is currently transitioning its fleet vehicles from diesel and gasoline to compressed natural gas, a cleaner and cheaper for of fuel. 

While the cost to convert vehicles is high, the state has set aside $6 million to help Marion and other counties, as well as Florida companies make the switch. However, with no public CNG facilities in Orange, Seminole, Lake, Volusia, Brevard, or Osceola counties, much of Central Florida is getting left behind.

“We have about 25 vehicles that we’ve converted,” said Marion County Director of Fleet Management John King. “We’re targeting high fuel use vehicles, so vehicles that are out on the road burning a lot of fuel.”

Marion County will qualify for the maximum allowed by the state for a single county or business -- $250,000. 

The money is being used to convert vehicles, a process that takes between two and three days.  As far as the construction of the filling station and the connection to a natural gas pipeline, that approximately $1.2 million cost is being picked up by a private investor.

“If someone had not been willing to come here and help us out it would have been more difficult to get this project off the ground” said King.

Last month the Lake Apopka Natural Gas District opened its CNG facility, however, unlike the upcoming facility in Marion County, the Lake Apopka facility is not open to the public. 

Across the state, the only public CNG facilities are clustered around Tampa, Miami, Tallahassee and Pensacola. 

Recently Leon County Schools purchased 44 new CNG school buses.

The district estimates it will save $7,000 a year on each bus in fuel costs. 

Leon County Schools, like Marion County, used a public/private partnership to cover the cost for the facility.  That $2.5 million facility is already operational.