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Green Jobs in Transportation

Any environmentally conscious consumer knows that transportation has a huge impact on our lives and on the nation’s carbon footprint. If you want to make a difference in greenhouse gas emissions, you may want to focus your green job search in this field. There are many strides being made toward more environmentally sustainable transportation options — which means more job opportunities for an eco-conscious career transition.

The modes of transporting freight and human passengers are varied:

  • Freight, packages, materials, and fuels are transported via a network of airplanes, heavy trucks, ships, trains, and pipelines.

  • Specialty vehicles are used for specific purposes, such as farm equipment to work the land and tend to animals, and construction vehicles to build structures and the overall infrastructure.

  • Public transportation systems such as subways, buses, trolleys, trains, and light rail are used in populated areas to move large numbers of people around as efficiently as possible.

  • Individuals and families get around by way of automobiles and light trucks, recreational vehicles both on road and off road, and bicycles.

For each element of the transportation system, people are needed to design, manufacture, operate, and service vehicles. But it doesn’t stop there, the systems upon which these vehicles run, such as highways, rail systems, subways, ports, and pipelines must also be designed, constructed, operated, and maintained.

Several governmental departments are actively working to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from vehicles of all kinds. Freight companies are also moving beyond business-as-usual by updating their equipment in ways that improve fuel efficiency, reducing the length of time trucks idle, and rethinking distribution routes with the help of geographic information system GIS software that allows companies to create queries to evaluate different routes.

A new segment of the transportation sector is emerging to provide alternative vehicles for personal travel. These vehicles range from scooters and Segways to motorized bicycles and low-speed vehicles like electric golf carts.

Future trends in green transportation

The move toward alternative fuel automobiles is not stymied for lack of trying. Vehicles can be built to run on a number of fuel sources, including hydrogen, propane, natural gas, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, also called autogas) biodiesel, ethanol, and others. In addition, vehicles can be powered by fuel cells, such as battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs), hybrid electrics, plug-in hybrids — even hybrid trucks. For all this innovation, there are no set standards yet. It’s possible that several technologies will evolve for different purposes.

In May 2009 the EPA proposed a plan to increase the use of renewable energy as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The plan calls for developing four kinds of renewable fuels, including cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel, advanced bio fuels, and total renewable fuel. These fuels would be phased in through 2022 with different production goals for each fuel type.

An important piece of creating viable alternative vehicles is solving the battery challenge. Lithium-ion batteries have been used to power electric cars, but they’re very costly. The quest for viable solutions is likely to birth a brand-new market segment over the next couple of decades, but there’s no way to know now which technologies will win the race.

Air travel is also likely to become more environmentally sound as new fuels are developed. Several initiatives and incentives are planned to support this effort, including the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) and government incentives.

Ports are another likely place for clean innovations. Traditionally, ports are very dirty places that use a tremendous amount of energy. A few test projects suggest that innovation can turn these numbers around. Putting a cap over a ship’s smokestack can control emissions for the short term until a more permanent solution can be invented and installed. A crane by Vycon Energy works like the brakes on a Prius, whereby the crane’s actions allows it to store the energy and use it again.

Sample jobs in green transportation

Some examples of potential jobs in green transportation include the following

  • Vehicle design and engineering: automotive engineer, mechanical engineer, aerospace engineer, aircraft engineer, industrial engineer, aircraft surveillance systems engineer

  • Battery development: Battery technology manager, product manager electrical energy storage systems, director of electrical and electronics engineering, lithium battery development engineer, senior mechanical engineer advanced battery technology, charger/battery systems engineer

  • Transportation engineering: Safety engineer, project geotechnical engineer, transportation engineer, civil engineer, construction engineer

  • Logistics and operations: Freight agent, freight broker agent, freight planner, senior freight planner, planning analyst, transit planning analyst, transit office manager, air traffic controllers, transportation specialist, aviation safety inspector, information technology specialist, rail inspector, motor carrier safety specialist, highway safety specialist

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