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Bay Area ferry fleet switching to renewable fuels

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Mayor Mark Farrell speaks at a press conference to announcing that The City’s ferries will be switching over to renewable diesel at Pier 35. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s ferries will soon use green gas to brave the briny blue.

The City’s various ferry fleets both public and private are transitioning to renewable diesel fuel, city officials announced Thursday afternoon.

A fire boat shot fountains of water in the air behind a bevy of politicos at Pier 39 to celebrate the occasion, which Port of San Francisco Executive Director Elaine Forbes said was inspired by the late Mayor Ed Lee. Lee and Forbes were on a boat ride together when Lee “made the connection” that the ferries should be as green as San Francisco’s transit and other infrastructure.

With Lee’s legacy in mind, Forbes said, “we’re making our air and water cleaner for everyone.”

Various San Francisco ferry fleets have already dipped their toes into renewable fuels, which often are derived from nonpetroleum renewable resources like natural fats, vegetable oils, and greases. The Red and White Fleet transitioned to renewables in late 2017, and the San Francisco Fire Department boat spewing water behind officials Thursday is already fueled by renewables. Other ferries from Golden Gate Ferry, Hornblower Cruises, Blue and Gold, and the San Francisco Bay Ferry run by the Water Emergency Transportation Authority will transition to renewables “through 2019, ” and The Port’s public fuel dock at Hyde Street Harbor will transition in 2018, according to The Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Mark Farrell told reporters at the event that not everyone in San Francisco can commute by car. “San Francisco is and always will be a leader in protecting our planet,” said Farrell said, in a statement. “To protect our region and our environment, we are taking climate action now.”

At the event, Red and White Fleet crew member Tom Escher also spoke. He’s a San Francisco native whose grandfather was the company’s original owner. Escher noted that going green isn’t just environmentally responsible, but “all of this is going to give us a business return” as well.

With a grin on his face, he pointed beyond the gathered politicians to a Red and White ferry behind them, and asked the crowd to research the ferry’s name later: Zalophus.

Zalophus is the scientific name for the nearby Pier 39’s most famous tenant, the sea lion. Soon, much like sea lions, The City’s ferries will brave the San Francisco bay without polluting her waters.

A San Francisco Fire Department fireboat blasts jets of water following a press conference announcing that The City’s ferries will be switching over to renewable diesel at Pier 35 on Thursday, April 12, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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