The city of Steamboat Springs is one of the transportation providers in Routt County that are participating in a yearlong program to look into the possibility of using more alternative fuels in their fleets. The city in recent years has grown its hybrid bus fleet and is realizing a significant fuel savings from the vehicles.

Photo by Scott Franz

The city of Steamboat Springs is one of the transportation providers in Routt County that are participating in a yearlong program to look into the possibility of using more alternative fuels in their fleets. The city in recent years has grown its hybrid bus fleet and is realizing a significant fuel savings from the vehicles.

High gas prices have fleet managers in Steamboat Springs turning to hybrids and alternative fuels


— With gas prices still sitting stubbornly near $4 per gallon, the managers of the biggest transportation fleets in Routt County are trying just about everything to get the most out of every gallon.

At Horizons Specialized Services, the latest tactic is a switch to synthetic motor oil.

It’s too soon to tell whether the change will make a difference in the nonprofit’s fleet of more than 20 cars, vans and trucks, but it's worth a shot, Executive Director Susan Mizen said Tuesday after she closed a drawer in the Horizons downtown office that contained a few red bottles of the oil.

Horizons has budgeted to spend $56,000 this year on the operation and maintenance of its fleet of vehicles that constantly traverses five counties for house calls.

About $37,000 of that sum will be spent on fuel.

Another $24,000 has been budgeted to reimburse employees who drive their own vehicles to appointments, Mizen said.

Mizen said that when Northern Colorado Clean Cities came to Steamboat earlier this month to talk about energy coaching, Horizons was curious and eagerly jumped on the opportunity to learn more about alternative fuels and vehicles.

“We’ve been making an effort over the last three years to be more efficient by being green," Mizen said. “We generally purchase our vehicles, so we might in the future look into purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle for local travel. That seems like an option for us. We just have to work out the logistics.”

Horizons is among a small group of transportation providers in Steamboat that have signed up for the free energy coaching that is made possible by a $225,000 grant from the Colorado Energy Office.

The goal is to find ways to save on fuel while also reducing the environmental impact of a fleet.

Other large organizations in the yearlong pilot program dubbed Refuel Colorado Fleets include the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and Go Alpine.

“The fuels that really rose to the top (after the kickoff meeting) and what we’ll really be looking at for Steamboat are compressed natural gas, propane and I heard some interest in hybrids,” said Maria Eismann, coordinator of Northern Colorado Clean Cities.

“The only problem with (compressed natural gas) in Steamboat is there is no infrastructure there for it now."

She said the infrastructure for propane is easier to establish, but with compressed natural gas infrastructure going up in some cities on the Interstate 70 corridor, it might not be too far-fetched to see it in Steamboat in the future.

After sustaining years of high gas prices, fleet managers in Steamboat already have embraced alternative fuels and vehicles.

The Steamboat Springs School District has embraced propane as a fuel for its buses, and the city has plans to expand its fleet of hybrid buses to six.

Now that Eismann and Colorado Clean Cities have a working group of major transportation providers here, the energy coaching will commence.

“We’ll be working to see if any of these fuels make sense, talking to fuel providers and talking to dealerships to see if we can make some progress,” she said.

Back at Horizons, Mizen acknowledged she’s not expecting to drastically alter the makeup of the organization’s diverse fleet of vehicles anytime soon.

In the near future, employees will be logging hundreds of miles in the fleet that includes an older Chevrolet Trailblazer, trucks and some newer Subarus.

In the meantime, a note is tacked up above the vehicle sign-out sheet encouraging employees to carpool when they can.

When they go to Craig, they're advised to try to grab the most fuel-efficient vehicle they can.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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dave mcirvin 3 years, 7 months ago

Harvey, Ugh.

Diane, a very big and genuine thank you for representing us the way the majority of Routt Co. residents feel is imperative. Green technology and it's implementation makes sound fiscal, environmental and moral sense.


jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

Dave Being in the majority just makes you in control, not right.


Fred Duckels 3 years, 7 months ago

Harvey is right, the left is driving us into poverty with their religion. Everything will cost more forcing production to countries that have no environmental concerns. Go figure! The ethanol fiasco is another bad joke in that it takes more carbon to produce it than burning carbon in the first place. Next an ear of corn consumes a barrel of water, draining our aquifers, again go figure. If the electorate had two IQ's to rub together common sense might resurface.


Eric Meyer 3 years, 7 months ago

Pretty sure you should not blame the ethanol fiasco on the left. Just one source...

I am sure there are many others that tie it to at least components of the right


john bailey 3 years, 7 months ago

Left , right , left , right , left , right . reminds me of a Jimmy Buffet concert.~:0)... this is one of those occasions where it doesn't matter if its from the left or the right, its plain wrong , corn for gas. Xit , all that water can grow other things too. Hula should be good to go soon, guess there was a part on backorder.......<3...~;0(


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 years, 7 months ago

I am all in favor of doing what it takes to conserve energy. We try to do that in our lives. How ever carbon based fuel appears to me to be the most plentiful and cheapest energy currently available. Yes, the 1%, the top 10% can afford to pay for alternative sources of energy ( of course as a rule they don't want to see the windmills obstructing their precious views) but the middle and poorer class - ah not so much. Our current administration through executive fiat aka the EPA has all but shut down the possibility of building any new coal plants (unless the energy companies want to spend additional billions of dollars to adhere to the new EPA rules) with their new regulations. From the WSJ Wednesday Sept. 25 "Next year the EPA will propose a rule to impose vast new anticarbon costs on existing plants in a bid to eliminate what remains of coal power." I wonder how the workers at Twentymile are feeling? If we all need "affordable" healthcare ,and we shall see how "affordable" healthcare becomes with the new Affordable Healthcare Act, don't we need affordable energy? Since 2000 the mean income in US has fallen from $76,180 to $71,274. The median income has fallen from $56,080 to $51,017. Who is John Galt?


dave mcirvin 3 years, 7 months ago

Dan, ugh.

with your current editorial duties, hope you'll have the time to volunteer with STARS this winter.


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 years, 7 months ago

David, What is it I said that deserves an ugh. And yes I will be on the mountain with STARS. I believe in giving back to my community as do you. I also believe the less fortunate need lower energy prices. How about you? See you on the mountain


John Fielding 3 years, 7 months ago

CNG makes sense, ethanol does not. Similar levels of CO2, but one requires much fuel, water topsoil, habitat loss, & higher food prices to produce, the other comes out of the ground pretty cheaply. I can't see how we can burn precious food for fuel.

We tried to get a CNG station going here in town and in Craig two years ago, but too long term an investment till the return on investment. No market till the vehicles are here, no vehicles cause there's no fuel, someone has to go first. Sure makes sense here with all the shuttle fleets though.

Other challenges, subsidies are only available for dedicated conversions (sounds religious, just means you can't keep multi fuel capability), high cost of conversions, little choice in factory produced CNG vehicles.

But the price is right, mpg cost far lower than gasoline. Last time I saw the prices in Rifle it was around half per GGE (Gasoline gallon equivalent, the price unit for CNG). It will pay off if you keep the same car long enough. And you can get a home gas compressor, not too expensive but a little slow, hooks up to your house, no tank required, uses the one on your vehicle and fills you up overnight.

CNG burning vehicles can also use a hydrogen supplement, up to 20% without adjustments I'm told. There is a clean burning mix! Our own Fred Robinson runs 100% hydrogen sometimes, emits nothing but H2O vapor. See his site at They have some nice vehicles available and can answer any inquiry.

Now there is an infrastructure investment that will promote business development in Steamboat, improve profits for existing businesses, give us cleaner air in town, and even make a buck for the city. Lets install a CNG tank at the bus barn, use it for our fleet and sell it to others. We'd have the market cornered for a while.


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