It's an innovative and unusually progressive move for the federal government: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is handing the state of Washington and Oregon grants that will serve to keep our air cleaner, conserve the nation's fuel resources, help to reduce global warming -- and save money for long-haul truckers, too.
Working with the EPA, the Climate Trust of Oregon, private funding sources, and some state money as well, Washington's Department of Ecology is setting up a trial project called "truck electrified parking." Here's how it works: At three truck stops in Washington, 75 electrified parking spaces will be provided. Truck drivers will be able to plug into electric service pedestals at a cost of roughly $1 per hour. That $1 is a clear bargain over the $3 per hour or more it costs for a truck to idle, something many truck driver do during layovers for food or sleep because the engine provides them with the power for heat, air conditioning, televisions, microwaves, etc. Having access to this electrical source means the truck drivers can shut down their engines and instead plug in to get their electricity.
Proponents of this project claim the electrical option will save -- in Oregon and Washington alone -- some 6 million gallons of fuel and $12 million in fuel costs to truckers and trucking companies over five years. Those figures are based on a relatively conservative assumption that truckers will take advantage of the electrical devices just 50 percent of the time.
Nationally, estimates suggest that nearly a billion gallons of diesel are burned by idling rigs alone. In addition to costing the truckers a lot of money, all that burning diesel pours a lot of pollution into the air, contributing to respiratory health problems -- and maybe even cancer -- for American citizens. And on a worldwide scale, the burning of fossil fuels is closely linked to global warming, so any program that will reduce these emissions is an excellent one.
This program belongs on a highlight reel of what can occur when creative individuals in government come up with sound alternatives to our national over-dependence (and over-indulgence) on oil and gas. This plan give us a glimpse at what innovations are possible with a little bit of funding and a strong does of smart thinking. It puts to shame the nonsense we so often hear from our national leaders, who like to tell us that more oil drilling is basically the only answer to solving our energy woes.
In a world of diminishing natural resources, we need political leaders willing to invest in fresh solutions to our energy problems. Instead, the leadership we have been getting from Washington, D.C., on this issue -- and from the White House in particular -- has been weak to non-existent.
Here's one welcome exception.