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Countries across the globe have a diversity of languages, cultures, and economics. But there’s one thing most of us share that we’d rather not -- a dependence on petroleum. Just as the U.S. Department of Energy is working to increase energy independence and transportation choices, other countries are trying to do the same.  

From the Clean Energy Ministerial to the U.S. China Clean Energy Research Center, the Department is working with scientists and policymakers worldwide to accomplish our mutual goals. The Vehicle Technologies Program’s Clean Cities initiative is also working to share lessons learned from shifting America towards more sustainable forms of transportation.

Working with Kazakhstan

Our latest efforts have focused on Kazakhstan, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Central Asia.  As part of the U.S.-Kazakhstan Energy Partnership, co-chaired by U.S. Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman and Minister of Oil and Gas of Kazakhstan Sauat Mynbayev, our Argonne National Laboratory staff members collaborated with the Department’s Office of Policy and International Affairs to organize a Clean Cities Transportation Workshop.  

The goal was to help the city of Almaty deploy an initial fleet of 200 compressed natural gas buses received through a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The densely populated city chose natural gas buses because they emit less greenhouse gas than other, similar diesel vehicles.

Almaty’s mayor is aiming for more than 100,000 vehicles in the city to run on natural gas by 2013. The Department of Energy pulled together more than 160 stakeholders to help the city, including representatives from the local transit agency, utility, gas companies, and academia. Experts prepared and presented a natural gas vehicle roadmap, which will help the city’s authorities coordinate the goals of all the various stakeholders.  

Other topics discussed included fueling safety, establishing codes and standards, and training vehicle technicians. Argonne National Laboratory’s Marcy Rood-Werpy talked about how Almaty can learn from Clean Cities’ partnerships and showed a video about natural gas buses in Tucson, AZ, Almaty’s sister city. One major focus was how to align local and federal incentives to help the private sector sustainably support a natural gas program. The discussions at the Workshop highlighted the fact that local businesses, such as privately owned taxi and bus companies, should be more involved in natural gas vehicle planning for the city.  

In addition to the U.S. companies that helped sponsor the workshop, such as Cummins-Westport, Dresser Wayne, IMW Clean Energy, and Chevron, there are ample opportunities for the private sector to expand their markets to Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries.  

Lessons Learned From Other Countries

While the U.S. has many lessons to share, we have also been able to learn from the experiences of others abroad. The Clean Cities team met with a group of five Swedish city officials who were visiting Washington, D.C. Marianne Mintz, from Argonne National Laboratory, described our efforts to develop biogas, natural gas derived from purified methane from landfills or agricultural waste.

Sweden already uses biogas to fuel more than half of the natural gas vehicles in their fleet. They said three major incentives helped drive the market: a lower vehicle sales tax compared to diesel, the ability to use highway bus-only lanes, and an exemption from Stockholm’s congestion fee that charges motorists driving into the city. 

The Swedish representatives are also working with DOE through the Swedish American Green Alliance. This collaboration, which includes more than 1,700 cities in Sweden and the U.S., focuses on sharing alternative energy information between researchers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, journalists, and non-profit organizations.

As Clean Cities continues our work in the U.S., we hope to share resources and learn from others worldwide. In the past, our Clean Cities International project collaborated with Bangladesh, Chile, India, Peru, the Philippines, and the European Union’s CIVITAS Program. As we all face the common goals of increasing energy independence, improving air quality, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we look forward to leveraging our collective knowledge to build a clean energy future.

Dennis A. Smith is the National Clean Cities Director in the Vehicle Technologies Program, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy.