Among a group of contenders that included the Ford Focus Electric, Honda Civic Natural Gas, Mitsubishi i, Toyota Prius v, and the VW Passat diesel, the 2012 Honda Civic powered by natural gas was named as the greenest car of 2012 at the 2011 LA Auto Show.

The win highlights a type of fuel and a vehicle that has been gaining in popularity and presents a solid alternative to more buzzworthy electric cars and hybrids. Although Honda has been building and selling the Civic Natural Gas for a number of years, 2012 marks a period of time in which Honda is seeking to increase consumer awareness of natural gas powered vehicles.

Infrastructure for natural gas fuel is already widespread in some areas of the country, the fuel is abundantly available from U.S. sources, and it burns cleaner than gasoline. Added together, the benefits of natural gas are similar to those of electricity: domestically produced, inexpensive, and low emissions.

"One of the best kept secrets out there is that natural gas can help reduce our dependency on foreign oil, because there's an ample supply out there in the United States, and it's also a very clean vehicle so it's great for the environment," Michael Accavitti, Vice President of Marketing at American Honda, told AutoTrader.com on the sidelines of the 2011 LA Auto Show. "It's a double whammy and this win absolutely helps propel that message out into the market place."

Although the Civic Natural Gas has only available in select regions in the past-California, New York, Utah and Oklahoma-Honda is expanding the retail network to 200 dealers in 36 states for 2012 and has reduced the starting price of the vehicle to $26,155. The low emissions of the Honda Civic Natural Gas also qualify it for the highly coveted "carpool" lane stickers that some states offer.

Along with the Honda Fit EV the company also unveiled at this year's LA Auto Show, the Civic Natural Gas is proof that the company is developing multiple technologies to satisfy a wide variety of customer needs. Honda says they are unwilling to latch on to one technology, such as electric cars, and prefers offering many technologies and letting the market decide which one is best.

See more LA Auto Show news.

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Nick Chambers is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.

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