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Looking toward the future: ACE trains going to 100% renewable diesel

Commission sets goal of net-zero emissions in operations
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The Altamont Corridor Express train service has announced it will run on 100% renewable diesel fuel as part of a climate action plan.

The Altamont Corridor Express announced Tuesday that its trains will now run on 100% renewable diesel fuel, making it the first commuter rail service in Northern California to make the switch.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, the agency that operates the ACE train system for commuters between the San Joaquin Valley through the Tri-Valley into Silicon Valley, anticipates the fuel switch will reduce ACE greenhouse gas emissions by 99%. The announcement is a step toward the goal of net-zero emissions operations, set under the commission's Climate Action Plan.

"We are proud to announce that ACE is operating with renewable diesel," Brian Schmidt, SJRRC director of equipment services, said in a press release. "Our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has taken a large step forward."

SJRRC said the renewable fuel source comes from "responsible and sustainable feedstock, such as used cooking oil and/or inedible corn oil."

ACE uses up to 51,000 gallons per month -- all of which will now be sustainable. "Our fuel partner, Valley Pacific, has been a key partner in this transition," Schmidt added.

Since first welcoming passengers in 1998, current estimates report that the transit agency carries over 1.3 million passengers per year.

The SJRRC has made strides toward its goal of zero net emissions by introducing newer, efficient train models into service in 2017 that were shown to improve air quality emissions and increase passenger efficiency. The commission also manages the Amtrak San Joaquins train fleet, a route offered from Bakersfield through Stockton and to Oakland.

In other ways to reach its goal, the transit agency has supported up-to-date research into zero emission locomotives. They said, "a key factor in this research is to identify and study a method of zero emission propulsion that can handle the grades in the Altamont Pass."

Further action items within the Climate Action Plan are changing shuttle and connecting bus service fleets to electric vehicles. The agency has also stated they aim to run the San Joaquin trains on renewable diesel in the near future.