December 7, 2009

S. Carolina university plans petroleum-free fleet



The University of South Carolina unveiled its “Genesis 2015 Initiative” on Dec. 1,  that will create a college campus with 90 percent fewer carbon-dioxide emissions from its fleet of vehicles within five years.

The plan puts Carolina among the nation’s first campuses committed to reducing its dependence on petroleum by introducing alternative fuels to power the buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles and maintenance vehicles needed in the everyday life of the university.

The comprehensive plan is ambitious, but doable, said University President Harris Pastides.

“Today, we are making a commitment that will drive Carolina into a new era of environmental responsibility,” Pastides said. “This is another important initiative supported by our faculty, staff and students to create a campus that will be climate neutral.”

The university has about 400 vehicles that are used for business, maintenance and transportation of students, said Derrick Huggins, associate vice president for transportation.

Within five years, all vehicles on the Columbia campus will be powered by ethanol, biodiesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), electricity or hydrogen fuel cells. A hydrogen hybrid bus will become part of the university’s shuttle service in January.

“We have 156 vehicles that we can convert to alternative fuel right away,” Huggins said. “This plan underscores the fact that the University of South Carolina is a leader among colleges and universities in sustainability efforts, including transportation, which is a key source of carbon emissions.”

The university earned top green ratings from the Princeton Review and the College Sustainability Report Card this fall, placing Carolina among the greenest universities and colleges in the Southeast.

Michael Koman, the university’s director of sustainability, said Genesis 2015 will reduce Carolina’s carbon-dioxide emissions by more than 2,000 tons.

“This is a major initiative to have cleaner air and to develop a clean fuel-supply system,” he said.

Moreover, switching to alternative fuels may boost the agricultural economy across the Palmetto State.

“Farmers could plant crops to meet fuel and food demands,” Koman said, adding that soybeans, corn and switch grasses have the potential to generate extra income for farmers.

Pastides said that student input has been critical in the university’s commitment to making Carolina healthier and greener.

“Sustainability is part of the fabric of life here at the university, and Genesis 2015 will move our transportation efforts forward,” he said.

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