by David Chapman
If a 10 percent reduction in petroleum usage in vehicles in Northeast Florida is the goal of the local Clean Cities Coalition, it’s going to take a collaborative, regional effort. The mission had a good start Friday.
Officials from a wide array of agencies and industries — including the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, JEA, Jackson–
ville Transportation Authority and more — brought their ideas and a willingness to learn to the table for the group’s January meeting at the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization.
“A lot of you are here today for reasons that I call ‘the three Es’: economic, environmental and the energy industry,” said Jeff Greene, business development director for Wise Gas.
Greene also serves as a consultant for the state’s other two programs in the Gold Coast and Space Coast and is helping the Northeast Florida group get on track to become designated. Along with several others across the state, the Northeast Florida coalition is looking to join the two and will consist of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties. By becoming designated coalitions, the groups will be eligible for federal money — Florida received none of the $300 million in stimulus dollars for the programs last year — in their efforts to reduce petroleum usage and dependence.
With the North Florida TPO spearheading the initiative’s initial funding, the next steps, said Greene, is for local agencies and organizations to help establish a baseline on the area’s fleets and consumption while providing information on the program to local businesses and the community.
Just as important as the baseline for fleets and consumption is building a membership base, said Greene, with levels ranging from college students ($10) to Emerald Sponsors ($5,000). Four subcommittees regarding development, legislative issues, education/ outreach and vehicle/infrastructure will be formed in the near future to further concentrate efforts, but members are needed.
“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in Jacksonville,” said Greene. “The low-lying fruit is available.”
During monthly meetings, the group will also be looking at different forms of alternative fuels (Clean Cities recognizes nine different forms) with presentations on their effectiveness.
The first in the series focused on electric-hybrid vehicles, in particular the Toyota Prius and its plug-in hybrid conversion rebate program. Conversions of the car typically cost around $11,000, said Greene, but it also has a $5,000 state rebate and just more than $1,000 federal tax credit. Several attendees who drive the car for business and personal use spoke of the benefits of the car ranging from gas mileage and fuel savings.
The Feb. 26 meeting will feature a discussion on biofuel, with members of St. Johns County talking of its biofuel program and its benefits. The March 26 meeting will feature gaseous fuels.
For more information on the Northeast Florida’s efforts for a Clean Cities Coalition, go to www.northfloridatpo.com