Lawson State Community College (LSCC), one of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium’s National Training Centers, received two grants that have provided funding for a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station and for additional alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) training programs.
The Alabama Center for Automotive Excellence at LSCC in Bessemer, Ala., recently unveiled its new CNG station, adding a major component to the college’s advancement of alternate fuels technology. A compressed natural gas grant provided funding for an on-site fueling station for training vehicles and also allowed the college to purchase light-duty vehicle conversion kits to be used for training current and future CNG automobile technicians. Current staff members have been able to pursue advanced CNG training for certification through the CNG grant.
“We have made another significant leap as we educate on the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. This is our way of staying on the cutting edge and keeping technicians on the cutting edge,” said Perry W. Ward, president of Lawson State Community College. “This is even more significant because as we know it, Lawson State will be the only community college in the southeast to have its own CNG fueling station.”
Compressed natural gas is a clear, odorless and non-corrosive gas that increasingly is being used as a substitute for gasoline. It is more environmentally clean and, when compared to gasoline, emits significantly fewer pollutants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.
CNG reduces foreign oil consumption because 98 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States comes from North America. Alabama is recognized in the top 20 percent of natural gas-producing states. Estimates indicate that CNG costs about 40 percent less than gasoline.
“Our involvement with the alternative fuels program is a part of the college’s initiative to go green as well as reduce the dependency on foreign oil,” said Tommy Hobbs, business and industry liaison for Lawson State. “We will train entry level and existing automotive technicians in the field of alternative fuels as it relates to CNG, hybrid electric, electric, propane and ethanol.
“We need to start looking at alternative fuels and ways we can move it in to our daily lives. We want to make the community aware that it is available and of its benefits,” Hobbs said. “It’s much safer than petroleum. CNG does not puddle on the ground but dissipates into the air.”
Lawson State, through its Corporate Services Division and the Alabama Center for Automotive Excellence, has partnerships with General Motors, Ford and Toyota. The faculty has participated in a number of alternative fuels training sessions offered locally and at the NAFTC.
“As alternative fuels flourish, automotive technicians will be needed to equip and maintain the fleets of tomorrow,” said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “We applaud Lawson State for its commitment to becoming a leader in alternative fuels workforce education.”
In addition, LSCC has been approved by the Alabama Governor’s Office for a State Energy Sector and Partnership Grant funded by the U. S. Department of Labor in the amount of $587,675 for the purpose of training for jobs in the maintenance and inspection of alternative powered vehicles such as liquefied and compressed natural gas and hybrid and electric vehicles.
“This is a welcome opportunity as it will allow us to provide beneficial training to more than 600 individuals,” Hobbs explained. “Additionally, these funds will position Lawson’s Corporate Services Division and the Alabama Center for Automotive Excellence to provide community awareness workshops regarding alternative fuels vehicles as well as offer community service workshops for first responders at the scene of an accident.”
Alabama received $6 million to share with partnership agencies. Program recipients will receive the technical and occupational skills necessary to obtain industry recognized credentials. “These grants will help workers gain access to good jobs, while supporting the sort of statewide energy efficiency strategies that play a crucial role in building the green economy of the 21st century,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.