Drive My Clean Car

On the seventh day God created Mobil. And God said unto Adam and Eve: "I have provided you with enough fuel for your eternity in the garden. I call it petroleum. Use it in thy scooter and in thy compact car. It is clean; it is infinite; it is pure enough to drink." But, warned God, "I forbid you to use it in excess, and, above all, you must never, ever use it in thy SUV. For if you do, you will be banished from the garden, and this nectarlike fuel will become a menace to your brethren. It will cause wars among people and plagues on wildlife. It will be in great demand and lorded over by few. It will eat away your supply of clean air and water. And SUVs will be everywhere." Adam and Eve beheld the petroleum. And it was beautiful. But one night Adam received a message from the sly serpent: "Go forth in thy SUV and do multiple doughnuts." And there was much drilling and spilling, of which the Almighty had warned.

Okay, maybe it didn't play out exactly like that, but whether you're a petition-waving ecophile who wants a car that runs on compost or a hard-nosed businessman who just wants a better bottom line, it's difficult to deny that our singular reliance on gas has become decidedly deadly. Hip to that notion for years, the Gold Coast Clean Air Coalition has been helping county and corporate fleets in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties (as well as Martin and Monroe, as of last year) make the switch to alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) since 1994. Currently the coalition counts about 2000 AFVs in its region, says coordinator Larry Merritt. AFVs can be anything from cars to buses to trucks to bikes that run on electricity, ethanol, methane, biodiesel, propane, compressed natural gas, hydrogen (a ways off, says Merritt), or some hybrid thereof. This Wednesday, in honor of Clean Air Month, you can inspect and/or test drive several such rigs (all currently on the road) at the "Tomorrow's Cars Today" exhibition, part of the annual Environmental Essentials conference, presented by the Clean Air Coalition, Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM), and the University of Florida TREEO Center. Opening with a welcome by Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver, the conference offers twenty sessions on topics such as "What to Expect from a DERM Inspection," geared toward helping public- and private-sector industry types learn about environmental standards (save a few seats for Governor and President Bush).

And in case you were wondering, yes, there are AFV SUVs on the market, such as the Toyota EV RAV4, which Merritt has tried out himself and endorses heartily: "It is so much fun to drive, but the problem is, it's only available by lease, and you can't get it on the East Coast. You can only get it in California." Shame.