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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Clean energy for public transport - what are the options?

One of Perth's natural-gas powered buses

One of Perth's natural-gas powered buses

Credit: Powered by CNG / Wikimedia Commons

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The other day I took the bus home from work, as usual. It was one of those gas-powered ones, which I like. Not only are they nicer just because they're newer than the old diesel fleet, they also produce 17% less greenhouse gas emissions. Apparently they're cheaper to run than diesel (although more expensive to buy), and produce 90% less smoke, too.

Even though public transport is more efficient than car travel, it could be even better if it were run on cleaner sources of fuel. There are a lot more options for this than there used to be.

Electric commuter trains could be run from clean energy, produced from renewable sources like wind or solar. Even a percentage of it would make a difference. Some models already use rengenerative braking, which converts some of the energy used to slow down into energy they can use to speed up, similar to a hybrid car.

And I'd love to see some hybrid buses around town. As with hybrid cars, the reduction in fuel used (and therefore GHG emissions and pollution) is about 50%, which would make a big difference.

Perth was part of EcoBus, a worldwide trial for hydrogen buses, which ran from 2004 to 2007. I only ever saw them at the bus station, since they didn't seem to get used on my routes, so I don't know if they're much different from a passenger point of view. But I'm not sure what the future of the program is, it's all gone very quiet!

Are there any other ways we could make an already eco-friendly option even better? I'd love to know if you've got any suggestions.