Jonathan Overly, the executive director of the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition (ETCleanFuels), was born in Rhode Island and moved to Tennessee when he was two years old. Just as Overly planted deep roots into Tennessee’s turf all those years ago, he believes alternative fuels have also found fertile soil in the region.
But, that wasn’t always the case. When Overly helped launch ETCleanFuels in 2002, many of the original coalition partners may not have been aware of available alternative-fuel options.
“I’m not sure those early supporters knew how to spell ‘biodiesel.’ I’m not sure I did,” he joked. “But, that was the fuel we did the most with in the first few years.”
Biodiesel became so popular that, by 2007, Overly had a hard time keeping up with the hundreds of Tennessee fleets embracing the fuel.
In 2013 alone, ETCleanFuels’ partnering efforts with stakeholders in the region led to the displacement of more than 5.5 million gallons of petroleum and the avoidance of nearly 44,500 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The coalition’s portfolio continues to diversify, thanks to fleet interest, hard work by coalition staff, and innovative partners across the state. Overly said listening and effective communication are keys to his role. Along the way, he has become expert at educating and problem-solving for fleets.
“I love meeting new people and learning about local fleets and companies,” he said. “When we find the right partners and bring all the pieces together to get a project done, then we are making a difference.”
Building the I-75 Green Corridor
ETCleanFuels continues to tackle many projects that enable the expansion of alternative fuels and vehicles in Tennessee. The I-75 Green Corridor Project is a biofuel corridor that runs from Canada to the Caribbean. The challenge of reaching across state boundaries for the six-state, multi-coalition project was a highlight for Overly. Coalitions including Detroit Area Clean Cities, Clean Fuels Ohio, Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition, Clean Cities-Georgia, Central Florida Clean Cities, Tampa Bay Clean Cities, and Southeast Florida Clean Cities were all a part of the project’s success.
“We were determined to get the project done,” Overly said.
And, they succeeded. The 1,786-mile corridor was completed in 2014. The coalitions’ efforts led to the installation of 31 E-85 stations and nine B-20 stations. By 2014, the project had offset the use of 1.8 million gallons of petroleum per year. In the five years since the project’s start, it has displaced nearly 95,000 total barrels of oil.
ETCleanFuels has also been able to collaborate with the City of Kingsport, Tenn., which now has the largest propane-autogas fleet in the state with 50 pieces of equipment. Additionally, Kingsport has added electric vehicles to various departments, including a Nissan LEAF police car.
In the near term, Overly anticipates growing alternative fuels adoption in the region as well as in its crown jewel, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, by identifying additional opportunities for alternative fuels in the park.
Editor's note: Ernie Tucker is a representative for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.