As oil continues to gush uncontrollably into the Gulf of Mexico, city officials and environmental leaders gathered on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday as part of “Get L.A. Off Oil” day.
The movement urges residents to use alternative modes of transportation. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Councilmembers Jan Perry, 9th District, and Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, were joined by filmmaker Josh Tickell and producer Rebecca Harrell Tickell, creators of the documentary film “Fuel”.
Villaraigosa said one of the most important plans to get people out of their cars is the “30/10 Initiative”, a plan that will accelerate the completion of regional transportation projects such as the Subway to the Sea from 30 years to 10. The projects were made possible through Measure R, the half-cent sales tax initiative passed in 2008. Villaraigosa said the plan is critical for reducing traffic congestion and helping the city meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions. Additional benefits of the 30/10 initiative include the creation of 166,000 construction jobs; the saving of 10.3 million gallons of gasoline per year; and reducing vehicle miles traveled by 208 million throughout Los Angeles County. Officials are currently seeking federal funding that will enable the projects to move forward.
”We need to get Los Angeles, we need to get the nation, off of fossil fuels,” Villaraigosa said. “We need to do something to give a better environment to our children than the one we inherited. Los Angeles is the car culture of the world, so there is no better place to extol the virtues of alternative fuels. We can turn the challenge of reducing the use of fossil fuels into an opportunity.”
The mayor said the city has already taken steps to reduce its reliance on gasoline, including changing a majority of the vehicles in the city’s fleet of trash trucks and street sweepers to run on natural gas, using compressed natural gas busses on DASH and Commuter Express Lines, and requiring trucks that visit the Port of Los Angeles to use clean burning diesel engines.
Rosendahl also said the oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico shows the danger of relying on fossil fuels. The councilman sat in a Toyota Prius that runs on fuel produced with algae and a Chevrolet Volt hybrid electric vehicle, and praised them as examples of alternative transportation.
“The whole world is dependent on imported oil. Look at the BP situation, what a disaster. If there ever was a need to get off oil..,” Rosendahl said. “The whole climate, the whole future of humankind is at stake. There will not be a future unless we act now.”
Rebecca Tickell, an environmental activist, author and film producer, said the Prius that runs on algae was created as an example of things people can do as an alternative to using fossil fuels. The Tickell’s partnered with Sapphire Energy to create the world’s first algae-based gasoline, which is made from treated sewage that is converted into oil. She added that the vehicle gets 150 miles per gallon.
“Algae is a thousands times more efficient than biodiesel,” Tickell said. “It costs $13,000 to convert the vehicle, but we hope that price will come down once more people show an interest.”
Denny Zane, an activist and the former mayor of Santa Monica, joined the group to also show support for alternative transportation. He said that if something doesn’t change, it will be a very bleak future.
“The days of ‘spill baby, spill, and drill, baby drill’ are the mantras of the past,” Zane added. “It is time we declare our independence from oil and find our way back to the innovation we are capable of. We need to get away from dirty oil.”
Lisa Hansen, a spokesperson for the mayor, added that officials will continue to press for funding for the Measure R projects. She said currently, no program exists that would completely fund all of the projects.
“We plan to continue to work with Washington D.C. to figure out what we need for this program,” Hansen added. “We need to figure out exactly what the federal program is that will make this successful.”
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