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New Initiative Seeks Cleaner, Sustainable Transportation for Bay Area

A new effort to promote clean energy for transportation in the Tampa Bay area was launched at USF Tuesday morning, but it's not the first time such an initiative has been attempted. In the late 1990s, the Suncoast Clean Cities Coalition brought together dozens of member groups interested in alternative energy. However, the coalition died out in part because resources weren't available.

Fast forward to today, when electric cars are more prevalent and gas is nearly four dollars a gallon, and the need for a centralized organizing group has been rekindled. That need is being met with the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition.

"The timing is perfect because now I think the general public that doesn't have time to pay attention to this stuff on a daily basis can see that these technologies are not for hobbyists or transportation geeks like me," said the USF's Patel School of Global Sustainability's Stephen Reich. "They're really mainstream alternatives to filling their tanks with petroleum or diesel every day."

Representatives from USF, local government agencies and private corporations were on hand for the launch. Reich says that any sustainable changes to transportation and the environment will have to be done with the cooperation of these three entities.

“People need to see some value in this thing and the only way it can happen is if it’s holistic and it’s multi-dimensional in terms of the access to information and technologies that the community can get," Reich said. "That can only happen with a partnership of universities, private sector and governments.”

TECO Energy President and CEO John Ramil agreed with that sentiment.

"When you look at local governments, whether it's a school system or the county system, a system of garbage trucks, they have the fleets that can support a central filling station that then you can build into a retail filling station for others to use." 

Initial financial support for the new Coalition is coming from Hillsborough County's Environmental Protection Commission and TECO Energy, an underwriter for WUSF Public Media.

Reich says it should take about a year to put together the coalition. After that, the coalition will be eligible for recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy as a federal Clean Cities Coalition, which will enable it to compete for financial support.

Also at Tuesday's ceremony, USF President Judy Genshaft announced that SIERRA magazine’s annual list of "Cool Schools" ranked USF 12th (up from 47th last year) among American universities and colleges in implementing new green practices on campus and focusing on sustainability in research and education.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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