Alternative fuel study part of effort to lower GHG emissions 

As part of its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, Whistler is looking at new ways to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through an alternative fuel study.

The study will look at alternative fuels like hydrogen, natural gas and biodiesel, and identify the best fuels for use in Whistler. The study will also describe an implementation plan for the resort.

Brian Barnett, general manager of public works and engineering at the municipality, said the study would first focus on cars and trucks in the municipal fleet, along with the transit buses and all Whistler-Blackcomb vehicles.

"It targets those specific areas and then from that we intend to expand it to other vehicles," he said.

"Hopefully the other vehicles that would fairly quickly follow suit would be things like the hotel shuttles, delivery vehicles, that kind of thing.

"The market for alternative fuels is really in its infancy right now."

There are certain factors in Whistler which will dictate the preferred fuel to be used here.

"What may work in Vancouver may not work in Whistler," said Barnett, using natural gas as an example to illustrate his point.

In Vancouver there are many natural gas pumps at gas stations making it easy for vehicles to run on that fuel in the city. Whistler does not have that luxury.

"In Whistler we don’t have any natural gas at all in the community so it just wouldn’t work," said Barnett.

"We’d have to build an entire natural gas infrastructure here."

But natural gas as an alternative fuel has a plus.

It can be used in existing engines with little or no modifications. The same is true for biodiesel fuel.

On the other hand, hydrogen gas or fuel cells generally need a whole new vehicle or system to run.

All these factors must be considered in the study.

Monitoring data shows air quality in the Whistler area is generally good but that could be reversed according to the changes in emissions, topography and climate.

A study of ozone in Whistler’s air shows it to be approaching levels similar to the Lower Mainland.

Barnett said that in itself is not alarming because the Lower Mainland has other smog related issues that Whistler doesn’t have and ozone isn’t a major concern there so it’s not a major concern in Whistler.

But the ozone levels could be raising warning flags about air quality in the valley.

"It’s just one of those indicators that we’re paying attention to because it’s telling us that if vehicle emissions continue to grow then air quality will continue to deteriorate," he added.

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