Friday, February 18, 2011

How Green is our Valley?

Ran across this article today:

London Bike Share Program not as "green" as had first been reported.

The article is interesting in that certain statistics and functional activities were ignored in trying to make this project appear to be contributing greatly to reducing emissions and providing alternative transit. China has similar projects that have been in place for less than a year and is struggling with maintaining them. It begs the question: is there a 'perfect green' project short of simply not traveling? We think not.

We had to chuckle the other day when we met an advocate for clean air for the first time and she remarked that it was 'unfortunate' that LANTA was 'part of the problem.' We were taken aback for a moment. Public transit prides itself as being part of the solution to air pollution in that by definition it eliminates so many trips that might otherwise be taken by single occupancy auto. Buses provide such a positive benefit compared to what is exhausted into the air as they operate that the scales are truly weighed in its favor. And technical improvements over the past decade have made 'clean diesel' a good deal more than an oxymoron.

As the advocate continued, it became clear that her focus was on the diesel fuel exhaust from the bus fleet and we have to concur, that is unfortunate. But given current technology and the economics of transit, there isn't really any pure, non-polluting energy alternative to transporting people.

The hybrid electric buses LANTA introduced to the Valley transit system last year go a long way towards minimizing pollutants but they still run somewhat on diesel fuel. And someday, the battery packs that help propel the vehilce will need to be replaced and there is the issue of disposing of batteries and the manufacture of new ones. Both processes have elements of pollution to them.

Obviously, what the world needs is a non-polluting energy alternative to power vehicles. The hydrogen fuel cell is the closest thing we've seen towards that end, but it remains a technology that is considered experimental and not entirely practical for general use.

In the meantime, taking the bus - walking when one can do so practically - is the best alternative for those who want to help the environment. And it's healthier too!

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