Some electric transportation news

When you buy an Amtrak ticket, you sometimes end up riding a diesel-powered bus instead of a train pulled by an diesel-fueled, dual-powered (electric and diesel) or electric (in the Northeast) locomotive.

Now at least one of the diesel-powered buses in the Amtrak network is being replaced by an electric-powered bus.

Passengers traveling mid-day on the Amtrak Cascades route in the Pacific Northwest through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver, B.C. will now get to ride on an electric-powered bus between between Seattle and Bellingham, WA instead of on the diesel-powered bus that has been serving this trip segment.

The bus is the first electric vehicle (EV) in the Amtrak National Network and can make the nearly 200-mile roundtrip on one single charge

A ride in the right direction.

SFO Airport will help save energy in an emergency

It’s another very hot summer. And airports around the country are doing their part to reduce their draw on the elecricity grid during times when air conditioners and other appliances are in heavy use.

Denver International Airport, Chattanooga Airport , Indianapolis International Airport (IND) and many others have large solar farms that provide much, and in some cases, all of the electricity needed to power airport operations. And Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) is completely powered by natural gas and solar via its own microgrid.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which earned an award in 2019 for being the world’s first Zero Net Energy (ZNE) facility at an airport, has a large rooftop solar farm. But SFO still gets some of its electricty from the city’s hydroelectric grid.

So to do its part for added energy conservation during the city’s Flex Alerts, which the cities issues when extremely hot weather drives up electricity use, the airport is committing to a variety of measures which may have a slight impact on passengers. The airport expects it will get 24-hour notice on these Flex Alerts which usually run from 4 pm to 9pm. So if anything on the list below alarms you, be sure to check the SFO website before you travel.

  • The AirTrain people mover may reduce the frequency of service from every 4 minutes to every 8 minutes.
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers in all SFO Parking Garages may be temporary deactivated.
  • Airport cooling may be adjusted to reduce electricity usage, allowing terminals to be just a bit warmer than usual.
  • Airport lighting may be reduced throughout terminals.

Flying on wood chips? Done!


A regularly scheduled Alaska Airlines flight flew from Seattle, Washington To Washington, D.C. on Monday burning jet fuel made from limbs and branches left behind from harvests in managed forests.

This was the first time this type of alternative jet fuel was used on a commercial passenger flight and marks another milestone in the march to produce and use sustainable biofuels instead of fossil fuels for aviation.


Solid waste, used cooking oil, corn, and a variety of starch-rich plant waste has also been used to create alternative biofuels that have been mixed with regular jet fuel for test flights flown by Alaska Airlines and other carriers.

This new type of wood-based biofuel was cooked up by the Washington State University-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and Colorado-based Gevo, Inc.

According to the airline, “while the 1,080 gallons of biofuel used on the flight has a minimal impact to Alaska Airlines’ overall greenhouse gas emissions, if the airline were able to replace 20 percent of its entire fuel supply at Sea-Tac Airport, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 142,000 metric tons of CO2. This is equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.”


Earth Day at your airport

Traveling on a fuel-gobbling airplane on Earth Day?

Don’t worry – you can still be green on the ground at many airports.


Boston Logan International Airport is reminding travelers that is has added GobiCab, a fuel-saving, taxi cab ride-sharing app (for iPhones) to the eco-friendly transportation options listed on its website.


BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport is celebrating by christening eight new electric car charging stations.

Wichita Mid-Continent and several other airports will be holding earth day fairs at their terminals

San Francisco International Airport is having a little Twitter contest.

If you tweet to @flySFO between 8 a.m. PDT and 8 p.m. PDT with ideas on how to reduce your environmental foot print when traveling, you may win one of the recycled SFO banner luggage tags they’re giving away.

And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport kicks off its First Annual Garden Show on Friday, with displays from four area organizations: Openlands, Trees That Feed Foundation, The Conservation Foundation and the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Look for the green beyond the security checkpoints in Terminal 3, between concourses H/K and L through May 13.


(Flower photos courtesy Robin Carlson, Chicago Botanic Garden)

Lots of garbage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

I prepared for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by spending the afternoon with garbage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

First up:  an exhibit featuring  artwork by Dorothy Rissman made from trash she found on city streets, construction sites and beaches.

Dorothy Rissman - Snack Pack Dress

Dorothy Rissman - Reflector ball

Next: an introduction to the airport’s six pair of shiny new, computer-monitored trash compactors, set out for use by airlines.

(courtesy Sea-Tac Airport)

Sea-Tac Airport is incredibly enthusiastic about reducing waste and has won awards for the amount of trash it recycles and the wide range of things it recycles. For example, unsold food goes to food banks; spent cooking grease becomes bio-diesel fuel; and organic waste – including tons of coffee grounds, of course – gets composted.

Now the airport is turning its eco-eye on all the garbage that arrives on airplanes.

Instead of letting each airline take care of its own garbage, the airport bought a dozen computer-monitored giant compactors (six for trash; six for garbage) so that it can coordinate and monitor airplane trash.   Airlines that separate magazines, newspapers, soda cans and other recyclable items can get rid of that stuff for free.  And if they do a good job of helping the airport keep trash out of the landfills, airlines can get credit to help lower their annual bill.

Happy Earth Day!

Honolulu Int’l Airport testing wind power

In October 2006, an earthquake knocked out all the electricity on the island of Oahu and closed down the Honolulu Airport, which had inadequate back-up generators.

Now the state of Hawaii is testing a series of wind turbines that should generate enough power to keep the airport operating should there be another emergency situation.


You can read the details of the project in the Honolulu Advertiser.  But even if you’re not at all interested in kilowatts, turbines and voltage, take a look at the photo gallery that accompanies the article.   As you can see from these photos, those wind turbines are really quite pretty.

honolulu airport wind turbines 2