The Case for Solar-Powered Downtown Transit!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
September 24, 2007

Just before 1900, steam and electric engines dominated the early auto industry. Twenty years later, internal combustion shoved steam and electric vehicles aside and the rest is history. With our country having a liquid fuel problem, we now have a compelling case to go "back to the future".

  1. Our current dependence on oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels for transportation is hurting our economy, our health and our environment.
    1. Texas doesn't produce enough oil to power its own transportation system – Texas imported 805,503 thousand barrels of oil in 2004. Today oil is selling for $82 per barrel, so at the 2004 level of importing, $66 billion leaves the state each year to buy oil.
    2. Bexar County air quality rates an "F" from the American Lung Association
    3. Texas leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions causing drastic climate change impacts
  2. An impending peak in world oil production will cause a drastic impact on our economy. It will take at least 20 years to prepare for it without serious impacts.

    "The development of the US economy and lifestyle has been fundamentally shaped by the availability of abundant, low-cost oil. Oil scarcity and several-fold oil price increases due to world oil production peaking could have dramatic impacts ... the economic loss to the United States could be measured on a trillion-dollar scale." (Robert L. Hirsch, et al., Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy, February 2005.)

  3. One workable strategy is to rely on clean, free, abundant solar power and put this power to use in transportation. A proven technology is to capture this solar power and put it into batteries, which are regularly used to power electric buses. What is innovative is to put the two together: capture solar power to charge batteries used to power transit buses.
  4. Battery powered electric buses have been routinely used for years in Santa Barbara, CA and Chattanooga, TN as well as other places around the world.
  5. While purchasing battery-powered buses is more expensive than fossil-fueled buses, capital grants from the Federal Transit Administration and other sources could be used to provide a solar-powered, electric transit operation. This would eliminate the cost of fuel– VIA's second major cost item in its budget after labor even if just downtown. With much fewer moving parts, electric buses could be much less expensive to maintain. By not spending money on imported fuel, these re-directed expenditures stay in the local economy generating jobs and income.
  6. Electric buses are quiet and clean – making them ideal for downtown conditions. They have no emissions except at the source of electric power generation. Solar power contributes no emissions to ground level ozone or greenhouse gas emissions.

    Noiseless, emission-free and liquid fuel-free buses. Sounds good to me! How about you?

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