Months before oil began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP spill, North Florida Clean Cities Coalition members were educating themselves on alternative fuels and vehicles that would alleviate petroleum dependence.
Now the group is close to becoming a designated member of the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities program, which would allow it to apply for federal dollars.
Initially funded by the North Florida Transportation Organization, the North Florida Clean Cities chapter has met monthly to educate members of different agencies about alternative fuels that might be options for their respective fleet vehicles.
Five of the recognized Clean Cities alternative fuels explored are propane, natural gas, biodiesel, ethanol and electricity.
Continued support from JEA, the Jacksonville Port Authority, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the City and numerous businesses propelled the transition toward designation, said Jeff Greene, business development director for Wise Gas.
“It (the North Florida chapter) has been far and away one of the most organized and least bureaucratic organizations I’ve dealt with,” said Greene, who organizes the Clean Cities efforts across the state.
Greene said the North Florida chapter could be officially designated by the end of the year. That would allow the group to apply for federal funds if they were to become available, such as the $300 million allotted toward Clean Cities programs last year as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Florida was awarded none of the funding.
Since the inception of Clean Cities in 1993, more than 90 official coalitions have formed with more than 5,500 stakeholders.
Each month, businesses associated with the five recognized alternative fuels present the merits, costs and processes of converting vehicles. They present to agency and business environmental officials.
Friday, Charles Brown, Ferrellgas account manager in the North Florida region, and John Magwood, president and CEO of First Coast Biofuels, presented information about propane and biofuel, respectively.
The North Florida chapter has a goal of a 10 percent reduction in petroleum usage in vehicles throughout the region of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties and continues to reach out to local businesses, agencies and individuals who want to join the effort and potentially save money. Tax credits are still available for fuel conversion in vehicles through the end of the year.
Long-term success will come through membership, said Greene, and officials are actively looking for people, from college students to corporate officials, to join.
The next North Florida Clean Cities Coalition meeting will be a July 22 designation workshop where officials will complete designation applications.
For more information about Clean Cities, call Wanda Forrest at 306-7500.