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Cleaner Transportation Fuels Can Save Lives

Antoine M. Thompson

One of the biggest challenges in communities of color are higher rates of asthma and respiratory related illnesses. I know this firsthand from growing up in the inner city of Buffalo. My family lived near NYS Route 33, the Kensington Expressway and so did my grandma, one of my uncles and at least one aunt.  As a kid I snored really bad and at times, I experienced labored breathing.  Of course, my physician said I had a mild case of asthma.  


My younger brother had a more serious case of asthma.  He carried an inhaler and had hospital visits when his asthma flared uncontrollably.  I would not learn until after college the role that transportation and the environment built around my community had on my health and that of my family and friends.


My elementary school was within walking distance of my home, but there was a school bus depot nearby as well as a few factories which contributed to the poor air quality in my neighborhood.  From 6th grade to 8th grade, I rode a diesel school bus to the other side of town. According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), little did I know that the pollution on that yellow school bus was worse than the air behind it. 


We also lived near a shopping center and park we loved to play at.  However, we didn’t realize that the delivery trucks, park vehicles, and some of the diesel fueled cars in the area were making me and others sick. Perhaps that’s why so many people were carrying around oxygen machines, inhalers, and diagnosed with lupus and COPD in certain neighborhoods. 


As the CEO of Greater Washington Region Clean Cities, my office partners with Clean Fuels Alliance America to host the Environmental Justice Community Forum Series to discuss the Trinity Study, which effectively documents the positive impact of using biodiesel instead of diesel on public health. The findings state that lives will be saved by using biodiesel fuels in medium to heavy duty vehicles.  


There are over 2,000,000 diesel vehicles on the road, pumping pollution into the air, and wreaking havoc on the public.  In California, over 40% of the big trucks are using biodiesel, contributing to better health outcomes, especially in environmental justice communities.  Let’s do more to use cleaner fuels in trucks, warehouses,  marine, and agricultural vehicles throughout the U.S.  Doing so will save lives!



Antoine M. Thompson 


Antoine M. Thompson is the CEO and Executive Director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition. Antoine is a former NY Senator. He was the first African American to Chair the powerful NYS Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. 


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