BIRMINGHAM, AL --- The city of Birmingham announced plans to lease 70 natural gas-fueled trucks and to apply for a $5 million federal grant to build a compressed natural gas station.   

In a press conference, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford said the new trucks will make up the largest fleet of natural gas-fueled refuse and brush trucks in the Southeast, the Birmingham News reported. 

"Maybe America is about to wake up," Langford said. "This is just going to be the first step in Birmingham, Alabama. This world is changing and we had better wake up and change with it." 

The mayor was joined by officials from Energen and Alagasco, which signed on as supporters for the grant application. The companies will be involved in the grant process, Langford said. 

The new trucks are expected to save more than 5,200 barrels of oil a year. 

"It's another step on our journey to energy independence," said Phillip Wiedmeyer, chairman and president of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. 

Last October, the Birmingham City Council approved a plan to lease all vehicles in the city fleet. Bob Rainey, director of fleet management, has said 70 percent of the 2,200 vehicles in the city's fleet needed replacing, including police cars, fire trucks and garbage trucks. City officials said it would cost $45 million to buy new vehicles, but would cost $6.5 million a year to lease them. 

Langford said the city will begin seeking bids on the leased vehicles, and the new vehicles will arrive later this year, the Birmingham News reported.