Filling up a car or truck with compressed natural gas sounds good, but finding a public filling station is next to impossible.
There is one in Harrisburg, three or four in Philadelphia, one in State College and one near Pittsburgh, according to the website cnglocator.net.
But State College, the closest on that list, is a long way to drive, just to refuel.
That may be about to change as the city opens the gate to those desiring to drive vehicles fueled by the cleaner and cheaper alternative to foreign oil.
City leaders expect by October or November to open the first public-access pump in Lycoming County at the River Valley Transit garage.
"Our plan is to initially have a fueling site for public use, but we're hoping sooner rather than
later someone from the private sector will step up to the plate and take over," said Mayor Gabriel J. Campana.
The public-access station is part of the bigger plan to run city buses and vehicles on compressed natural gas, saving tax dollars along the way.
"We're working on developing a plan with our design team at Larson Design Group to determine the best use for all aspects of compressed natural gas technologies," said William E. Nichols Jr., general manager of the bus company at 1500 W. Third St.
Natural gas costs about a third of what gasoline does and is the impetus behind the city converting its bus and city fleets, Nichols said.
Because the access site is somewhat isolated, the fueling station will be open only during the day, he said.
Details are being worked out as to whether it will be self-service or manned, he said.
"We initially thought it might be a good idea to have someone around to help out."
The pump works like a regular fuel pump.
"It's the same application of a nozzle placed into the vehicle that is being fueled," Nichols said.
Payment would be made with a debit or credit card.
"It doesn't make sense to make it cash," Nichols said.
River Valley Transit's plan includes a combination of compressed natural gas and hybrid technology, or buses that have batteries that are powered by electricity.
"Fuel is 20 percent of River Valley Transit's budget," Nichols said.
"Natural gas is a stable commodity, which is plentiful and not subject to international problems," he said, referring to situations such as the oil embargo in the 1970s and other more recent threats to the free flow of oil supplies.
"There have been times during my career when there's been limited resources, rationing of resources," Nichols said. "When you have spikes in fuel and a possibility of fuel being rationed, people turn more toward public transportation and alternative fuel sources."
The next bus, costing $496,000, is on order by River Valley Transit. It is made by Gillig, of Hayward, Calif. That bus and three more will be funded by grants, Nichols said.
The first bus will be placed on the longest route from Newberry to Montoursville. The bus travels 250 miles a day. Estimated fuel savings of $150 per day are expected.
"We could see a savings per bus of $40,000 a year," Nichols said. The overall savings are expected to be about $400,000.
To find compressed natural gas access sites in Pennsylvania, a site, cnglocator.net, shows seven cities with compressed natural gas pump access - one is in Harrisburg, three or four in Philadelphia, one in State College and one near Pittsburgh.