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Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory > Questions, Comments, Ideas > Questions > Categories
Biodiesel Available for Employee Vehicles?
I have recently purchased a diesel vehicle and would like to know if employees are able to purchase the B20 biodiesel available to the DOE fleet? And if not, is there an initiative to make this available or is there some rule preventing this?

Jon Forstrom of the Logistical Services Division responds:
We are prohibited from selling government owned property--including the biodiesel used in our fleet--to the public except through the property excessing process. Since we don't excess any of the fuels used by the fleet, it is not available to the public.
Share Office Space/Work from Home-Alternate Schedules
Has a feasibility study been performed on the cost and energy savings resulting from sharing office space? For example:  Employee A works in the office M-W-F and from home T-Tr. Employee B works in the same office T-Tr and works from home M-W-F.
It seems like this would result in:  1) less parking spaces needed (fewer cars on campus at the same time), 2) air pollution reduced (commuting reduced by ~50%), 3) office space rental costs reduced (two people share one office), 4) fewer new buildings needed, and 5) ORNL overhead reduced.

Lynn Eberhardt of the Integrated Operations Support Division responds:
Yes, as a part of the "More Resources for Mission Teleworking" study, a review was performed of "office space" sharing while teleworking. There clearly is a cost savings (to ORNL and to the employees involved) through sharing of an office. The teleworking group proposed, and it was supported, going to approving a full-time teleworking (i.e., fully working away from the office except for key meetings) and, as an alternative to full-time, an ORNL office space sharing situation (requires working at home alternate weeks with a shared office at ORNL). The proposal is being incorporated into SBMS and should be available later this summer.
Stoplight at Bethel Valley Rd intersection with Hwy 95?

Congestion on Bethel Valley Road at "quitting time" wastes energy by excessive vehicle idling and stop-and-go movements. The following question was asked to me by someone else, and I repeat it here because it describes a potential energy-saving measure:

The traffic jam at Bethel Valley Road and Hwy 95 could be greatly improved by putting a light at this intersection.  This would allow drivers leaving the lab and turning left onto 95 to turn without stopping when the light is green.  This is such an obvious problem, and the solution is equally obvious.  Why has this not been done?

Chris Patton, Director, Safety Services Division, responds:

Thank you so much for submitting your question regarding the traffic at Bethel Valley Road and Hwy 95.  That intersection and adjoining stretches of road are owned and managed by the state.  ORNL has no jurisdiction to install a stoplight there.  However, ORNL has been communicating with the state in an attempt to have them address the issue.  In fact, ORNL recently conducted traffic flow studies there in order to make a good case and justify the need for some type of modifications.

The results of the study have been received, and ORNL is preparing to communicate with the state to express our concerns and request the issue be addressed.  In the meantime, the Safety Services Division continues to publish safety information about this, and other intersections.

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Bus Service to ORNL
I was curious if there has every been a study or proposal regarding arranging bus service to the ORNL campus from a few select strategic points in the Knoxville area?  Would it be possible to poll the community and see if there is demand for such a service, and if so, where the best pick-up points would be?  If within a reasonable biking distance from my home in Knoxville I would certainly utilize this service on a regular basis, and I am sure there are many others who would leave their cars at home in return for a much more relaxing bus ride.  The reduction in traffic and parking congestion would certainly reduce costs for the laboratory, perhaps enough that the service could be partially if not fully funded depending on demand.

Diane Davidson, ORNL Sustainable Employee Transportation Roadmap Owner
, responds.
Thanks for your question! It shows a great understanding of the many benefits that accrue to employers as well as employees from shifting from driving solo to public transportation. The Sustainable Campus survey identified employee interest in transit service so we are exploring ways to work with the existing transit service providers. Several potential fixed route transit service options are under consideration. One is a peak hour service from a central staging area in Oak Ridge into ORNL. ORNL assisted the City of Oak Ridge and the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA) in preparing a request for funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) for acquisition of hybrid buses to operate this service. We have not heard from TDOT yet as to the status of the request. Additionally, a request from the City of Oak Ridge and ETHRA for 10 mini-vans for vanpooling from Oak Ridge into ORNL has been submitted to TDOT. ORNL is excited about the partnerships we are forming with regional transit providers and look forward to expanded options as a result.
EV solar charging plans
There have been architect drawings showing parking areas covered by solar panels and charging for electric vehicles.  Will these become reality, and for people contemplating purchase of a Nissan Leaf as a commuter car to ORNL will such parking be available when these cars become available in December 2010?  Are there any other incentives that ORNL provides to encourage staff to commute in "greener" ways?
ORNL's Teresa Baer (Sustainable Campus Initiative) and Dell Morgan (Director, Facilities Development Division) respond:

Twenty-five solar-assisted electric vehicle charging stations are being constructed as part of the parking lot under constructions north of the new Chemical and Materials Sciences Building. That lot is projected to be completed by by December 31, 2010. There is an additional parking structure at the corner of Fifth Street and Central Avenue that will contain electric vehicle parking stations. This area should be completed in April 2011. Additional charging stations will be made available across the campus. All these stations will be available for charging electric vehicles purchased by employees.
Additional incentives for encouraging employees' "green" commuting are under consideration as part of the ORNL's greenhouse gas reduction planning.
Are there restrictions on taxpayer eligibility for plug-in EV tax credits?
Part of the story of the advent of plug-in electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt is that tax credits ($7500) will be available to buyers of these vehicles.

I've seen a lot of information about what types of vehicles are eligible for these credits, but not about taxpayer eligibility for them. With some other tax credits, such as the credit for purchase of a gas hybrid vehicle that was started in 2006, there were "fine print" restrictions in the IRS rules that turned out to mean that many taxpayers were ineligible to receive them -- or received a greatly reduced amount.

If it turns out (for example) that the EV credit is only available to people who don't make enough money to be able to afford one of these cars, these cars' benefit in reducing ORNL's environmental footprint may be smaller than we are hoping.

Is there any information "out there" about who is qualified to claim this electric vehicle credit? (Or whether it phases out at a certain level?)
ORNL's Jimmy Stone replies:

You may be able to claim this credit for certain new plug-in electric vehicles with at least four wheels that you placed in service for business or personal use in tax years beginning after 2008. You can generally rely on the manufacturer's certification that a specific make, model, and model year vehicle qualifies for the credit and the amount of the credit for which it qualifies. For more information, see the IRS publication for Form 8936, Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit or consult your tax professional. Specific answers depend on the the taxpayers' facts and circumstances and on when they purchased the car.    

Question and comment
The ORNL transportation survey results were released in April. It is a very good report with lots of information and ideas. Now who's going to follow up and start putting some of these ideas into practice?

Thank you,


Diane Davidson,
Director, ORNL's Center for Transportation Analysis responds:

ORNL is taking several steps to implement the Sustainable Commute portion of the SCI. Plans are underway to form a Sustainable Transportation Coordinating Committee. This Committee will be instrumental in the implementation of new services and programs that enhance commuting options for ORNL employees. In addition, an individual has been identified who will act as Secretary to the Committee to handle administrative and marketing items. 

Other recommendations in the Sustainable Transportation Commute Report have been completed. You may have noticed the Share the Ride signs around campus that remind motorists to be alert for bike riders. The ORNL Carpool Ridematch site has been updated to better help people find others to ride with to work. And, a Telework Pilot Program is soon to be implemented. Discussions are also underway with area agencies on developing a van pool program that would target ORNL employees. 

The Sustainable Commute program is still building and will require the active participation and input from staff to make it successful and serve commute needs. Thanks so much for your input and interest in making this program a success.

Use of E-85 in Employee Vehicles
With the lab's continued efforts to help the environment, why doesn't the lab open the use of its E-85 to employees that have the capability of running their vehicles on E-85? E-85 is only available in a couple of locations in the Knoxville area and it would be helpful and convenient for employees to be able to purchase E-85 right here on site.
ORNL's Jon Forstrom replies:
Unfortunately, DOE regulations do not allow us to conduct retail sales of government-purchased items or commodities, like E-85, to employees.  However, the good news is that Lab sources have learned that E-85 may become available at a retail station on Hardin Valley Road, just off the Pellissippi Parkway, in the not-too-distant future.  This would be convenient to many Lab employees. 
work from home or 80hr/9 days
Work from home (telecommuting) or 80hr/9 days work schedule may reduce the pollution related to commuting.  

Should this be encouraged or promoted at the Lab?

ORNL's Debbie Stairs responds:

There is a  team  that is currently tasked with designing a telecommuting program.  We anticipate running a pilot group July – December.  Full implementation of the program will occur in calendar year 2011. 

We don’t have all the issues worked out at this time, but anticipate communicating progress within the next month.

Electrical Vehicle Charging Station Availability
Two questions regarding the survey :

1) will each charging station be dedicated to specific user, or will it likely be first-come first-served?

2) the survey invitation stated:
      " many staff members might be interested in purchasing an electric vehicle for use in driving to work...?"
Does this imply contractors (e.g., ORAU postdocs) will not be eligible to use these stations?

Thanks for any responses.

ORNL's Billy Stair responds:

Policies will not be finalized until we have a better sense of how many staff will drive electric vehicles and where they work.  Anyone can purchase the vehicles.

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