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MOFTB Promotes Green Initiatives to Local Productions

MOFTB Announces Results of Biodiesel in Film Generators Study Conducted by Cornell University Researchers with Sony Pictures Entertainment on Location
with ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’

June 25, 2009 – In a continuing effort to promote green practices to New York City’s film industry, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) today announced the results of a recent study conducted by Cornell University researchers to determine the effects of biodiesel use in film generators. According to the study, the use of biodiesel fuel in production generators resulted in a 21% decrease in carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, a primary contributor to smog. For the study, the MOFTB organized the alliance between Cornell researchers, CCNY grad students and Sony Pictures Entertainment to help compare emission output between diesel and biodiesel, a plant-based alternative fuel. The study took place on the set of Columbia Pictures’ The Taking of Pelham 123 while it shot on location in Brooklyn in June 2008; the film opened in theatres on June 12, 2009.

“The MOFTB is committed to supporting green initiatives, and we are working diligently to promote those practices to the industry,” said Commissioner Katherine Oliver, MOFTB. “There are so many ways a production can reduce its impact on the environment. Something as simple as turning off the lights when you leave the production office or cutting back on how much paper you use can have a real impact on the environment in the long run. Our hope is that this biodiesel study will serve as an example for other productions to take a look at how they too can ‘go green’ while filming on the streets of New York City.”

On March 18, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed legislation that required the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel in diesel-powered generators for film, television, and commercial productions and at street fairs in New York City. ULSD fuel is diesel fuel that has a sulfur content of no more than fifteen parts per million and differs from the fuel tested in Cornell’s study, which was biodiesel fuel, a combination of ULSD and processed waste vegetable oil. Beginning on June 18, any diesel-powered generator that is used to provide electrical power for equipment used in productions that require a permit from a city agency must be powered by ULSD fuel. Any person who violates this provision will be liable for a civil penalty in the amount of $500 for each day in which they are in violation of the provision.

“Wider industry adoption and use of biodiesel for film generators, backup equipment and construction can greatly improve air quality and reduce pollutants that contribute to asthma and respiratory problems critically important in many New York City neighborhoods,” said John Nettleton, Senior Lecturer in City and Regional Planning at Cornell.

“We are pleased to be a part of this biodiesel study with the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting and are very encouraged by the results,” said Jon Corcoran, Vice President of Environmental Sustainability for Sony Pictures Entertainment. “Sony Pictures is committed to pursuing sustainable practices across our company, including testing new ways to reduce carbon emissions during production.”

Diesel vs. Biodiesel

Researchers from Cornell University conducted ‘pre/post’ diesel vs. biodiesel generator tests on the set of The Taking of Pelham 123 in Brooklyn over two consecutive days in June 2008. On June 9, a generator on set ran on ultra-low sulfur petroleum-based diesel fuel. Samples were taken to measure emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. Carbon monoxide in the atmosphere can accelerate the reaction leading to ‘ozone’ formation and smog.

The following day, June 10, the test was repeated by using a blend of ultra-low sulfur petroleum-based diesel fuel and processed waste vegetable oil (B18) in the same generator. The biodiesel was supplied by Tri-State Biodiesel, a Brooklyn-based company that produces biodiesel from waste vegetable oil collected from Brooklyn and other New York City restaurants. When the same measurements were taken, it was found that there was a significant 21% decrease in carbon monoxide emissions.

According to the researchers, use of biodiesel significantly reduces the impact on those working in the area, passing by and breathing the air. Emission levels of nitrogen oxides also decreased by 5.5%. This gas contributes to smog and directly affects those with respiratory problems.

Continuing Efforts

The MOFTB is committed to supporting green practices in the film industry by encouraging productions to be mindful of their impact on city locations and celebrating industry efforts to be more environmentally conscious. The MOFTB also serves as a resource for productions looking to ‘go green’ while shooting in the five boroughs. Launched in 2007, NYC Green Screen is an online guide that provides tips, resources and other environmentally friendly information to help productions reduce energy use while filming. Visit to learn more.

Sony Pictures Sustainability Commitment

As the first and only studio to achieve ISO14001 certification (the international standard for managing an organization’s impact on the environment), Sony Pictures Entertainment has an established sustainability practice. Led by Chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Co-Chairman Amy Pascal, the studio’s goal is to reduce its ecological footprint and combat climate change through initiatives that span facilities and operations, production, consumer products, employees and community outreach. The studio recently switched to ultralight DVD cases that use about 20% less plastic than standard-weight DVD cases, resulting in an estimated 2 million pound reduction in carbon emissions annually.

About the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting
As the first film commission in the country, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting is the one-stop shop for all production needs in New York City, The agency markets NYC as a prime location, provides premiere customer service to production companies and facilitates production throughout the five boroughs. To learn more, visit

About Cornell University’s Study
As New York State’s land grant university, Cornell University’s effort is part of a NYSERDA-funded research grant to promote the use of biodiesel in New York City, blending biodiesel with heating oil. Working with CCNY grad students, researchers demonstrated that biodiesel use reduces particulates and other pollutants in an urban area. In addition, because the waste vegetable oil is made locally in Brooklyn, energy consumption used for transportation is greatly reduced. For more information, contact

About Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America (SCA), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution, operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in more than 130 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at

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