Wednesday, May 25, 2016

It's time to buy all-electric buses in Miami-Dade County

A diesel bus in San Francisco
Photo source: Brant Ward, SFGate 
The black smoke belching out of a county bus is a person’s most startling contact with fossil fuels. Most visible after acceleration, the toxic fumes attack you while driving, walking down a street, or passing by your home, office or school. For the old and the young, these tailpipe emissions are especially toxic, contributing to asthma and lung cancer. Buses are great mass transit options, but they are also contributors to smog, lung disease and global warming.  Despite the clean vehicle slogans on the side, all buses in Miami-Dade County are powered by dirty fossil fuels. But that’s about to end.  Today’s buses do not need a tail pipe, and Mayor Carlos Gimenez has committed to introducing them into Miami-Dade’s bus fleet.

Metro areas like Los Angeles, Seattle, Santiago de Chile and even our capital of Tallahassee all operate all-electric buses now with no tailpipes. While the sticker price is slightly higher than that of diesel, they are about the same cost as diesel hybrid or CNG buses and cost far less to fuel and maintain. The yearly fuel savings alone for one bus can be as much as $400,000 to $500,000 over the 12-year life of a bus. Along with cost savings, the new all-electric buses offer a more comfortable ride, are quieter and more responsive. But the biggest benefit is that they are much healthier. Unlike polluting CNG and diesel hybrids, all-electric buses produce no emissions.

Miami-Dade County’s Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said that he will start buying electric buses, and the Transit Department is finalizing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 25 all-electric buses. After running the electric buses on every route in Miami-Dade County last fall (you might have been lucky enough to ride one), transit staff determined the buses were ready for the road. Battery technology has advanced to the point where the buses can run Miami-Dade’s longest routes for up to 155 miles and, after a quick recharge, go back on the road. While 25 buses is still a small part of the county’s total fleet of about 900, the purchase would be a big deal. Miami-Dade, a city whose future depends on curbing carbon, would claim one of the largest electric bus fleets in the nation.

Even with all this good news, the county is still planning to convert most of its aging diesel fleet to natural gas. But guess what – natural gas buses are hardly better in fighting climate change. In fact, research shows that a diesel bus emits a whopping 3,000 grams of carbon per mile, CNG runs a close second with 2,800, diesel hybrid 2,300, and battery electric 650 (factoring in the emissions from the electricity used). Each electric bus would reduce carbon emissions by upwards of 122,000  kilograms per year compared to diesel and CNG.

No matter the electricity source, whether it be wind, solar or even coal, electric buses still produce lower emissions than natural gas or diesel. But with renewable energy, all electric buses get even cleaner. If FPL starts building more solar plants, we could actually power all of our buses and cars with the sun.  But the first step is getting rid of dirty tailpipes.  So write to Mayor Gimenez’s Transit Director Alice Bravo and ask her to get electric buses on the road ASAP. We can’t afford to wait. Our health and our survival as a city depends on moving to 100 percent clean power and 100 percent clean transportation. Making the switch now to electric buses is one significant way to cut Miami's carbon emissions and make the air cleaner for all.

-- Jon Ullman, Sierra Club's Electric Vehicle Campaign, Miami

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

People Create Human Sun at Suncoast Sierra Hands Across the Sand event

Elected officials from throughout Pinellas County joined hundreds of Floridians, community leaders, and environmental organizations to oppose offshore oil drilling and call for a transition to 100% renewable energy at the 6th annual Hands Across the Sand event Saturday, May 21st on the sands of Treasure Island beach. 
23 people = 1 ray of sunshine
  
This year’s event featured a new format, with hundreds of people forming the shape of an original logo designed by internationally renowned aerial artist John Quigley. With a helicopter capturing the image, they created rays of a huge sun encircling “100%”, symbolizing the move towards clean energy and away from fossil fuels. The sun highlights the under-realized potential for solar energy in Florida.

Suncoast Sierra's Ready for 100% St Pete campaign aims to develop residential and commercial solar projects, establish a clear renewable energy goal in the City’s Climate Action Plan, and educate the public on the benefits and potential for renewable energy to power our vehicles, homes and offices.

Starting before 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Pinellas County has hosted some of the world’s largest gatherings to raise awareness about the dangers of dirty fossil fuels and offshore drilling and the need to transition to clean energy sources and vehicles that use electricity rather than oil.  On the heels of the recent Louisiana coast Shell Oil spill, this year's event also follows Congress’ consideration of a bill to lift the current moratorium on offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“100%” represents the Suncoast Sierra
Club's goal to drive the City of
St Petersburg to 100% renewable power.

“Drilling off Florida’s coast threatens the state’s multi-billion dollar, tourism-driven economy that’s dependent on clean beaches and pollution-free water,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “That’s why I will continue to fight any attempt to lift the current moratorium on drilling in the Gulf and keep oil rigs off of Florida’s coasts.”
Pinellas County Commissioner
Ken Welch, who has proposed allocation
of BP settlement funds for electric buses

Numerous elected officials participating included Mayor Robert Minning of Treasure Island, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, State Representative Kathleen Peters, Mayor Julie Bujalski of Dunedin, and representatives of Seminole, St. Pete Beach, Largo, Tarpon Springs and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. The Suncoast Sierra ClubSuncoast Surfrider FoundationEnvironment Florida, Oceana, Chart 411, Once Upon An Ocean, GreenpeaceSt. Petersburg Sustainability Council and Florida Food & Water Watch worked together to organize the event.

One of 19 in Florida and over 50 along the East Coast, Hands Across the Sand events increase awareness about the threat of offshore drilling exploration, specifically the practice of seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. While, due to widespread coastal opposition, the Atlantic Ocean is today safe from the threat of offshore drilling, seismic airgun blasting still threatens whales and dolphins in an area twice the size of California, from Delaware to Florida. 112 coastal municipalities have publicly opposed seismic airgun blasting and/or offshore drilling, citing concerns to marine life, coastal communities and local economies. 
Being part of a human sunbeam is hard work!
Special thanks to Kathleen Finnerty for the aerial photos and Marcia Biggs for the shots on the ground. 
Hands Across the Sand 2016 from Eric Bunch on Vimeo.

Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
1990 Central Avenue    St. Petersburg, FL 33712
717-824-8813, ext. 303          phil.compton@sierraclub.org

Friday, May 13, 2016

Blue-Green Algae Bloom Issue Info in a Nutshell

Aerial view of a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee taken Monday, May 9, 2016, near Pahokee.
Photo by Xavier Quinones, via TC Palm.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said they will ‘consider’ a blue-green algae bloom stretching over several square miles in southern Lake Okeechobee when deciding whether to continue discharging excess lake water into the St. Lucie River . . ., Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm, May 12, 2016.
Technically a bacteria, [blue-green algae] uses…photosynthesis…It shades and kills sea grass. Toxins in the algae can kill small animals…Animals that hunt for food in water can’t see their prey through the algae. When the algae dies, it’s eaten by bacteria that use up all the oxygen in the water, which can lead to fish kills. …Microcystis contains toxins that can make humans and animals sick…New studies suggest…a link between a toxin in blue-green algae and neurological diseases…Swimming…in a bloom can cause skin irritation…Inhaling toxins can cause hay feverlike symptoms…[C]hildren and pets are at greater risk for poisoning. 
Read the original story: Is Lake Okeechobee blue-green algae bloom a toxic threat to St. Lucie River? And to see video of the bloom, click here.
via: FCC News Brief e-mail, May 13, 2016