Harrison Market Gardens is a local food producer that grows mostly veggies and small fruits, not chickens or eggs.
Actually, this isn’t about chickens or eggs, but an issue that Illinois needs to bring to the forefront: affordable fuel. It’s the season when more and more fence rows are hacked out to plant yet more corn for the lucrative government subsidized ethanol producers. We live near the soybean capital of the U.S., yet many of our edible beans (edamames) and hard beans are grown in China.
After test driving the Nissan Leaf (not enough range), the Toyota Prius (fuel economy not worth trading up for), and our Nissan Sentra which gets 38 MPG with its 5-speed manual transmission, we’re looking for a yet better automobile alternative.
Here’s where CNG (compressed natural gas) enters the picture. Honda sells a CNG Civic for about $26,000, which is not much different than the price of the gasoline-powered version. Fuel costs for this car average 25-50% less than that for standard gasoline. This car has just been named “2012 Green Car of the year, by the way. Other brands would follow suit if fueling stations were available.
Some facts to consider about CNG:
- 1 in 5 buses ordered today is CNG fueled.
- The Honda Civic GX is manufactured in America and demand has exceeded production.
- There are only 3 public natural gas filling stations in the state of Illinois. (One contacted today is selling fuel for $2.65.)
- The local Honda dealership doesn’t carry a model because we’re not within 25 miles of a public fueling station.
- Rock River Disposal is installing a private fueling station for use as it replaces its aging fleet.
- Winnebago County is hoping to replace 2 vehicles with ones using CNG.
Some questions to start the conversation:
- What can we do to achieve a higher level of energy independence?
- Can we buy CNG vehicles without fueling stations? Not really.
- Can private fueling stations be made public?
- Can the big oil stations be encouraged to also provide CNG fueling stations that sell a less expensive fuel than gasoline?
- How can private enterprise be encouraged to begin providing a much needed service?
- Can Illinois be the first state to support public use of CNG or can Rockford be proactive and be one of the first cities to support its use?
- Can our valuable Illinois cropland be used to grow food instead of fuel?
Jill Beyer is a member of the Local Foods Work Group at the University of Illinois Extension–Winnebago County. She farms at Harrison Market Gardens, a U-Pick community supported agriculture farm in Winnebago. She blogs about local foods at blogs.e-rockford.com/gogreen.