Green and Mean

Features Green and Mean By Richard Rowe June 2001 Richard Rowe reports on the quest for alternate fuel vehicles that really do make an operational difference in the challenging airport environment. There has been momentum before, but nothing...


Features

Green and Mean

By Richard Rowe

June 2001

Richard Rowe reports on the quest for alternate fuel vehicles that really do make an operational difference in the challenging airport environment.

There has been momentum before, but nothing quite like this. While the airline world has been playing with electric GSE and alternate fuel options for the best part of 25 years, it was often stumped by technology that failed to keep pace with its dreams. But technology is catching up and the industry is abuzz with talk of alternate fuel vehicles (AFVs) that can genuinely do the job while providing lower emissions and contributing to cleaner air.

The major source of airport pollution is not aircraft, but the army of powered ground support equipment that serves those aircraft. Rather than looking at the issues piecemeal, airports and their tenants are increasingly understanding that the issue of air quality goes beyond just NOx (nitrogen oxides) issues to include a whole raft of public health issues.

The good news is that the need to include AFV technology into an airline’s business model is making its way into corporate culture. Similarly, airports know that expansion plans are unlikely to be approved unless they demonstrate a commitment to reducing emissions. Regulators need reductions, while airports hope that regulatory bodies will pursue cooperation rather than pure imposition, and perhaps provide the kind of incentives that make choices that much easier.

An interesting point raised at the Alternate Fuel Vehicle Conference held at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) in February centered on how the use of low emission vehicles could prove a great marketing tool for airlines. True, there is possibly no other place than an airport where the general public comes into contact with such technology. People notice, and particularly a captive audience such as air travelers. The high visibility of such equipment could prove symbolic of an airline at the forefront of its field, and a true sign of leadership.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sees airports as just the kind of niche market that can really make a difference in its development of low emission vehicles. The DOE sponsors the Clean Cities Program which in turn supports public-private partnerships that deploy AFVs and build supporting infrastructure.

Airports are one niche market where the program is in use, and it was the Clean Cities Coalition that worked with American Airlines to bring all electric GSE to the carrier’s ground operation at El Paso International Airport earlier this year (see GSE Today, March 2001).

El Paso is joined by several much larger U.S. airports in pursuing alternate fuel programs: DFW, Sacramento, and Denver (CNG and electric), Baltimore/Washington (CNG), the Los Angeles system of airports (LNG, CNG and electric), plus Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and San Francisco (CNG).

San Francisco International was understandably pleased with the May announcement by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta that it had been selected as one of 10 U.S. airports to participate in a program to improve air quality by encouraging the use of AFVs (see GSE Today, March 2001, page 24, for more on the airport’s efforts to reduce emissions).

Under the Inherently Low-Emission Airport Vehicle (ILEAV) program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) provides 50 percent of the cost of low-emission vehicles as well as the cost of refueling and recharging stations, up to a total of $2 million for each airport. Each airport funds the remaining costs. According to the DOE, the ILEAV program will substantially reduce ozone and carbon monoxide levels at airports that are located in areas where the air quality standards fail to meet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirement. The program is projected to eliminate 1,100 tons of ozone pollutants and 2,300 tons of carbon monoxide in the San Francisco Bay area alone.

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