Sustainable, Clean Transportation
USF, Hillsborough EPC and TECO Energy join forces to promote the use of clean energy in Tampa Bay.
Hillsborough EPC Exec. Dir. Richard Garrity; USF President Judy Genshaft, TECO Energy President and CEO John Ramil sign a new agreement to create a Clean Cities Coalition effort in the Tampa Bay region. The public-private partnership will promote the use of alternative fuels in transportation. Photo: Beti Gathegi | Special to USF News.
TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 14, 2012) – The University of South Florida's Patel School of Global Sustainability, the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County and TECO Energy are launching a new effort to coordinate and promote the use of clean energy for transportation through the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition.
The effort was launched in a morning signing ceremony and inaugural gathering at the Patel Center for Global Solutions on USF’s campus. USF President Judy Genshaft; Hillsborough EPC Executive Director Richard Garrity; TECO Energy President and CEO John Ramil; Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and Tampa businessman and philanthropist Frank Morsani spoke at the event to promote the goal of maximizing opportunities to reduce petroleum use in the county’s transportation system.
More than 100 people representing private industry, government and education turned out. A ring of vehicles which run on compressed natural gas – an increasingly popular clean fuel – were parked outside as an example of how large institutions such as TECO and Tampa International Airport are already turning to clean energy.
Frank Morsani, one of the area’s most notable businessmen and philanthropists as well as the founder of Precision Automotive Center, is among those in the private sector already looking at how to feed the demand for alternative-fueled vehicles. He said he is doing a brisk business in converting vehicle fleets, ranging from government vehicles to armored car fleets, because compressed natural gas is the fuel wave of the future.
“We can change our country,” Morsani told the crowd. “We can change what we are doing and with 20 million people in the state of Florida we can lead the eastern U.S.”
“As a major national research university, we can bring the latest information and technologies to the forefront of our community’s transportation challenges,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “More importantly, as an educational institution we can help our community consider clean, sustainable solutions to our transportation problems.”
The U.S. Department of Energy started the Clean Cities Coalition to foster regional communication, information sharing and public education on the benefits of reducing petroleum use. More than 100 Clean Cities Coalitions have been established nationally.
The Suncoast Clean Cities Coalition existed from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, and engaged dozens of member organizations in its programs. But the coalition waned because of scarce resources and lack of federal approval of its plan, leaving the area with no Clean Cities Coalition for several years. The effort has been revived through a new partnership taking a fresh look at promoting clean, sustainable transportation.
The coalition’s goal is to accomplish specific tasks and activities that support DOE designation as a federal Clean Cities Coalition member. Federal designation will connect the Tampa Bay region to a nationwide network on the forefront of alternative fuels, as well as enable the region to compete for funding opportunities that promote cleaner fuels.
“As a leader in the energy industry, TECO Energy will work with the coalition to bring businesses, governments and individuals together to reduce the use of petroleum as a motor fuel; develop regional economic opportunities; and improve our local air quality,” said TECO Energy President and CEO John Ramil.
“Our commitment to the Clean Cities Coalition is in direct alignment with TECO Energy’s strategy to promote and accelerate the use of alternative fuel vehicles, and we’re excited about being a founding partner in what will certainly be a very successful Tampa Bay coalition.”
The EPC and TECO Energy are kick-starting the effort with financial and in-kind support. USF’s Patel School of Global Sustainability will coordinate efforts under the guidance of Stephen Reich, a 30-year veteran in the field of transportation finance and energy, with a special emphasis on alternatively fueled transportation. The Patel School staff will carry out the outreach and assist with the research efforts of the initiative.
The new coalition could have a wide-ranging impact on the quality of life in the region, organizers note, including improving the community’s health.
“Air pollution can trigger a number of breathing conditions,” Garrity said. “And when you consider the sensitive groups of our county’s population, roughly 400,000 people are impacted by the effects of poor air quality. EPC looks forward to the Clean Cities initiative as a joint effort by the entire community to reduce our vehicle emissions and improve the health of our citizens.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe lauded the effort and the community commitment to sustainability as a move that would define the Tampa Bay region as being on the cutting-edge of uniting new technologies to bolster the economy. Sharpe noted that he had just met one of the USF researchers on clean fuel who had come to USF from Austin, Texas – seen as one of the most progressive cities in the nation – because of the university’s focus on sustainability.
“We are always looking at other communities too and saying, ‘Wow, we’d like to be like them!’ Well, they are actually looking at us and saying they want to come here,” Sharpe said. “They are actually looking at us and saying they want to come here.”
Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.