Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Utica group increases awareness of green progress in transportation

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Utica group increases awareness of green progress in transportation
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The need to go green spans all sectors of life today, and one of the most pronounced needs is in the transportation industry. A grassroots environmental group in Utica is trying to call attention to greener options for getting around. As our Beth Jones tells us, reducing our carbon footprint and lowering transportation costs can go hand in hand.

UTICA, N.Y. -- The Freedom Riders For Energy Independence car exhibition showcased alternative energy vehicles for all types of purposes. A local activist group rolled out the first time event in Utica in the hopes of opening local eyes to greener wheels.

Richard Morris who founded that group Green Local 175 said, "We want to show people that it's not just the future, it's the here and now. There are a lot of options. There's natural gas, there's hybrids, there's electric vehicles. There's diesel vehicles. So the list goes on."

Business vehicles were a particular focus. National Grid showed off a new crew truck fueled solely by natural gas, and even school bus outfits are forging ahead with new innovations, well on their way to reducing their carbon footprint, not too mention operations costs.

Jeremy Johnston of New York Bus Sales explained, "It runs on propane, strictly propane. It's not one of those engines that runs between diesel and propane, so it actually has zero emissions."

John Gillbrook, an Associate Engineer for National Grid, boasted the company's new natural Gas Fueled truck. "It's a brand new platform of vehicle, it's a brand new engine just developed and as of yet it's had all good reviews."

Centro Marketing and Communications Director Steve Koegel said, "In our fleet in Syracuse, over the course of one year we'll save more than $1 million in fuel costs because compressed natural gas is cheaper to operate than diesel fuel."

While the idea of drastically reducing their carbon footprint is a major draw for corporations using alternatively fueled vehicles, they say a major obstacle to making their use even more widespread is developing the technology needed to support them. They say most specifically fueling stations need to be developed across the region so that their fleets of alternatively fueled vehicles can grow.

"As more filling stations, you'll find more people that decide to go on propane. It costs less per gallon and it's actually cheaper to run and now with all the federal grant money there's a big market for it," predicted Johnston.

Gillbrook said finding the means to grow is always a challenge. "Infrastructure is probably the single greatest hurdle we have to overcome with any alternative fuel. Gasoline in a sense has had a hundred year head start."

A head start in a race that activists hope the environment will win in the end. The natural gas powered buses used in many Centro fleets are actually manufactured in the Mohawk Valley, but currently there are none on the streets of Utica. Centro said they are looking into building a fueling station that would facilitate their use, but currently the project would be too costly, leaving the Mohawk Valley slightly behind the curve when it comes to greening its streets.

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