Expert: Bring US ‘Clean Cities’ program to Israel

Meital Stavinsky, who works with Israeli cleantech firms says Israeli version of US initiative could reduce oil dependence.

Pollution (photo credit: Wikicommons)
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
The United States Department of Energy’s Clean Cities model, in which municipalities aim to become “fuel-neutral,” could be an ideal way for Israeli cities and towns to decrease their reliance on foreign oil, an expert has told The Jerusalem Post.
The Clean Cities initiative was established in 1993 by the United States Department of Energy and now has nearly 100 coalitions across the country.
Together they have saved 3 billion gallons of petroleum since the project’s inception, according to Meital Stavinsky, an attorney for the Miami-based firm Greenberg Traurig, where she primarily works with Israeli cleantech firms and represents them in the US.
With an ultimate goal of advancing US economic and environmental security, Clean Cities works to promote alternative fuels as well as deploy electric vehicles on the country’s roadways.
“Their main mission is really to advance environmentally friendly and efficient highway transportation to allow the US to use less petroleum,” Stavinsky, who is co-chair of the legislative committee of the South East Florida Clean Cities Coalition and a board member of the Greater Washington Clean Cities Coalition, told the Post earlier this month.
At the moment, transportation accounts for about 71 percent of oil use in US, and there is consequently a strong connection between “security and independence from foreign oil,” she explained. Therefore, establishing partnerships between private companies and municipalities to deploy the necessary infrastructure for alternative fueling and electric vehicles has become crucial.
“You need to have the public infrastructure for refueling, especially in those phases of the market development,” she said.
While the Clean Cities program does not lean toward any one type of alternative fueling – be it compressed natural gas, methanol, ethanol or electricity – Stavinsky said she was impressed to see that approximately 60,000 electric vehicles had been sold in the US since January 2011, already ahead of the growth rate hybrid cars achieved during their initial launch.
“I think electrification of vehicles is a very important method of alternative fuels,” she continued. “With that, I think that in the phase we are at there should be different solutions encouraged at the same time.”
Although the Clean Cities program overall tends to be quite thinly budgeted, in November 2011 the federal government awarded a total of $11 million to 20 chapters throughout the country in order to help states and local governments cut red tape and develop an infrastructure for alternative fuels, she said. In June of that year, the Department of Energy also decided to provide $1.1m. for alternative fuel infrastructure in five national parks.
“We need to address this growing infrastructure and be ready for it,” she said.
Stavinsky, a native of Israel, said she thinks this country should be employing a similar program. She recommended focusing, as has been done in the US, on a few strong communities, making them completely fuel-neutral and turning them into demonstration projects and test cases.
“The place to do it is not necessarily in the big cities,” she said. “You want to start small and see that it’s small enough so it has enough of an impact.”
While Stavinsky acknowledged that cities like Tel Aviv and Netanya, as well as several others, have already taken many individual steps toward becoming cleaner cities, choosing one as a complete working model for the rest of the country would be most beneficial for weaning society off traditional fuels. Creating a model would also bring together many of the key stakeholders who all too often do not work together on these issues, she added.
“It brings to the table people from all ends – the government, the utilities, the companies and the public,” Stavinsky said. “It’s really a place to join together work and make a difference, and overcome the market barriers.”