The Triangle Clean Cities Coalition was formed as a collaboration between public bodies in the Triangle. The groups include Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Orange County, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City and Orange County school boards, Orange Water and Sewer Authority and UNC to encourage the use of alternative fuels.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Joyce Brown said she attended a March 19 conference sponsored by the coalition to learn about and discuss ways Chapel Hill could use more alternative fuels, specifically for town vehicles, many of which now use either natural gas or electricity.
"Because Chapel Hill is a member of the Council of Governments and we already have alternative fuel vehicles, we were recognized for our work in that field," Brown said. "It was because of our individual efforts toward alternative fuels that (Chapel Hill) became a part of the coalition."
Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, said both Chapel Hill and UNC, in addition to 32 other local organizations, received plaques at the conference for their leadership in improving air quality and several other deeds.
"Chapel Hill is the first North Carolina area to be designated as a 'Clean City' in the Clean Cities Program," he said. "However, it is the 80th 'Clean City' in the U.S."
Brown said the different groups in Chapel Hill, such as OWASA and the school boards, had specific economic reasons for participating in the coalition.
"We wanted to see how government entities and groups with large fleet vehicles could work together to promote the use of alternative fuels," she said. "Economically, if we could work together, it was worth making an effort to work together on the project."
Brown said Chapel Hill already has a natural gas fueling station as part of local alternative fuel efforts.
"(The station is) located at the Public Works Department, where refueling for the town's vehicles takes place," she said. "Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than regular gas -- so that is one of the benefits of it."
Chapel Hill has six vehicles that run by alternative fuels, including two natural gas Ford Crown Victoria sedans and two electric Ford Ranger trucks that are on order, Chapel Hill's Internal Services Superintendent Bill Terry said.
But Brown said there are other alternatives, such as propane gas, ethanol and bio-diesel fuels vehicles, that could be used in the near future.
"Ethanol has actually been misportrayed in the past," she said. "In actuality, it is a cleaner-burning gas, as is natural gas."
Terry said the use of alternative fuel would be an economical decision made by the town. "The average citizen is not likely to accept a vehicle that costs more and runs on fuel that costs more," he said.
"Eventually, the government will make certain cars cheaper and certain fuels more available."
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