Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York to Combat Smog by Using Clean-Fuel Vehicles

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York to Combat Smog by Using Clean-Fuel Vehicles

Article excerpt

ANYONE who has ever witnessed New York City's daily gridlock of idling cars or the blasts of black diesel exhaust spewing from thousands of trucks and buses here can appreciate the severity of this city's air-pollution problem.

New York ranks third in the nation in urban smog - right behind Los Angeles and Bakersfield, Calif., - according to a recent US Environmental Protection Agency survey.

Traffic exhaust is the prime culprit. Carbon-monoxide levels in the city, though improved in recent years, are still 1.5 times higher than federal standards. The city also exceeds federal health standards for ozone levels.

"Today's cars are a lot cleaner than 10 years ago, but there are more of them and people are driving them more," says William Baker, chief of the air programs branch of the regional office of the EPA.

In response to a growing mix of internal and external prods, city officials are taking steps to ease the problem.

Under a broad new program proposed to New York City Mayor David Dinkins last month by a special task force, the city plans by April 1992 to buy or convert 385 vehicles - from pickup trucks to garbage compactors and buses - to run on natural gas, methanol, or electricity. That first phase would cost an extra $3.2 million.

The first target figure represents 25 percent of all non-emergency city vehicles that would normally be replaced in that period. By mid-1997 the city wants alternative-fuel vehicles for 100 percent of its replacements.

The level of carbon-based soot from diesel exhaust in mid-Manhattan is also too high to meet federal health standards. New York has stepped up enforcement of a law that bars any diesel vehicles, including the more than 7,000 buses that flow in and out of the city each day, from idling motors for more than three minutes. The penalty is a $400 fine.

Private efforts to make greater use of alternative fuels are also under way. The most enthusiastic proponent locally is the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, which leases two natural-gas buses to a Brooklyn firm that uses them to carry commuters into the city. Two hundred of the 1,400 sedans and trucks in the utility's own fleet also operate on natural gas. …

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