Gas goes on sale for 99 cents a gallon for 24 hours starting Sunday morning in Omaha.
Natural gas, that is.
Don't have a vehicle powered by compressed natural gas?
Well that's just the point.
Metropolitan Utilities District scheduled the fuel sale on Earth Day to signal that it's serious about establishing Omaha as a regional leader in the alternative fuel.
"It's not very often that one can take an active role in a new fuel," said MUD board chairman Mike McGowan. "(We) will be relentless in promoting the compressed natural gas market."
MUD doesn't expect the public to be lining up Sunday. There are few privately owned vehicles that use compressed natural gas, although local auto dealers sell them now.
The initial market in the Omaha area is fleet vehicles and cross-country buses. MUD hopes those vehicles pave the way for consumer cars and trucks.
MUD began promoting compressed natural gas as a fuel in 2008 and expects demand to more than double this year over last, a rate that could continue for the next several years.
Friday, MUD and officials with the City of Omaha, Douglas County and Metropolitan Community College held a press conference to spotlight their efforts to add natural gas-powered vehicles to local fleets.
MUD has more than 80 such vehicles. Other local governmental entities are starting with a handful or so.
Steve Oltmans, chief of staff for Mayor Jim Suttle, said the city saved $4,000 on a high-mileage passenger vehicle in its first year of use. The biggest barrier for now, he said, is the upfront cost of a natural-gas powered car.
According to a comparison provided by MUD, a 2010 Honda Civic equipped to run on natural gas cost $25,490; a hybrid version cost $23,950; and a regular gasoline-powered car cost $15,805.
Curt Simon, executive director for Metro, the city's public transit system, said the main barrier to Metro's use of such vehicles isn't cost but infrastructure. Natural gas adds about $35,000 to the cost of a $350,000 bus and the payback comes quickly. But Metro would have to spend about $3.5 million upgrading its transit headquarters to fuel a fleet of buses, Simon said.
"We're very interested," he said. "But with this, you have to go all in."
Nationwide, the main barrier to wider use has been fueling stations.
MUD has built two public fueling stations and plans to add a third next year.
The two are twice as many as are available in the Twin Cities, Kansas City, Mo., or even Washington D.C., according to the Department of Energy.
MUD has a station on its property at 2614 S. 64th Ave. and on property at 5318 L St. owned by Happy Cab Company, a station called I-80 Fuel. The public may buy gas at both places, for 99 cents a gallon, beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Happy Cab has added a number of natural gas-fueled cabs.
MUD's everyday price of a gallon of compressed natural gas is $1.70 per gallon, and the utility said it won't fluctuate the way gasoline does.
Even though natural gas vehicles don't get as much press as hybrid cars, they have been on the market for a number of years. Because natural gas has less carbon in it than gasoline, it burns cleaner.
"Assuming you have access to fuel, the cost of compressed natural gas is lower than gasoline and (it's) cleaner overall than a hybrid," said Shrupi Vaidyanthan, senior transportation researcher for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
Barbara and Christopher Ihle bought their first natural gas-powered car, a Honda, in 2009.
Barbara Ihle said they already have recovered the extra cost in fuel savings, because they drive a lot. The car already has more than 48,000 miles on it. Her husband, a doctor, commutes between Omaha and his medical practice in Fremont.
"There isn't anything we don't like about it," she said. "We are saving just a ton of money on fuel."