SALT LAKE CITY — A $350,000 grant awarded to state air quality regulators will help fuel the conversion of diesel delivery trucks to natural gas.

Fleet operators can tap a new program initiated by the Utah Division of Air Quality in conjunction with statewide promotions that tout November as Alternative Fuels Month.

Alternative fuels are one solution proposed by Gov. Gary Herbert to reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality.

The division reports that conversion of the 10 delivery trucks to domestically produced natural gas reduces the need for foreign petroleum by 279,000 gallons per year.

In addition to improving air quality for Utahns, truck operators will see savings as the result of the low cost of natural gas fuel itself. Natural gas is averaging about $1.52 a gallon right now, in contrast to diesel fuel which is selling for about $3.34 per gallon.

Natural gas conversions exploded during the summer of 2008 when the price of Utah gasoline reached more than 3.50 per gallon. At the time, natural gas was only 91 cents per gallon. As a result, hundreds of Utah drivers converted their gasoline vehicles to use natural gas. In 2008, 3.2 million gas gallon equivalents of natural gas were used as transportation fuel in Utah.

Applications for the delivery truck conversions are being accepted until Jan. 14. Information about the natural gas conversion grant can be found at

— Amy Joi O'Donoghue