In a move to greatly expand the use of natural gas in place of smog-producing gasoline to fuel vehicles, Southern California Gas Co. plans to spend $18 million to establish 51 new service stations in the Los Angeles area by 1993.
"The technology for natural-gas vehicles is already here and is being used," explained Roy Rawlings, vice president of marketing. "But first we must develop the infrastructure to support the vehicles."
The company applied Friday for approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to raise residential utility rates by about 5 cents a month--from a current average rate of $34.21--to fund the program. The utility estimates, however, that greater use of natural gas could eventually save ratepayers as much as 50 cents a month.
Southern California Gas had announced in late April that it would open two test fueling facilities by the end of 1991 in a joint venture with Unocal Corp. The stations are intended to service public and private fleets of buses, vans and trucks.
Also in April, a joint venture of Unocal and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. opened Southern California's first public natural gas station in Vista, north of San Diego. SDG&E already has a proposal before the PUC to add 30 more fueling stations in the next five years.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., in Northern California, already has eight facilities selling natural gas to the public, one at a Shell station in Sacramento. PG&E has submitted a proposal to add 19 more.