Earth Day turns 50 today. I was in high school back then and lots of other things, mostly those magical creatures called “girls”, were far higher up on my list of important considerations.
That first Earth Day ushered in quite a bit of environmental legislation that we now take for granted. The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, and the Endangered Species Act are just a few of the environmental laws that were passed during the 70’s.
Lead was removed from gasoline and paint. Dangerous pesticides (eg. DDT) were banned. Once endangered species, such as the American Bald Eagle, can now be found across the country, including right here in New Port Richey.
The theme for the 2020 Earth Day celebration is: Climate Action. Like our predecessors 50 years ago, we have a moral obligation to take action and leave our world a better place than it is today.
Councilman Peter Altman is our representative on the Tampa Bay Resiliency Coalition board. We are all concerned with how we can make sure that New Port Richey can successfully adapt to the climate changes that are projected between now and 2050. We are also looking at steps we can take as a city to improve our environment.
With that in mind, it was somehow fitting that we had a proposal come before city council last night regarding vehicle leasing. Under the direction of our city manager, our public works director spent the last several months working through the ins and outs of leasing vehicles instead of purchasing them outright.
The proposal we saw had a number of benefits for the city, not the least of which is a projected savings to the taxpayers of over 1.1 million dollars over the next ten years. We’ll be able to replace some ancient vehicles with between 100,000 and 200,000 miles on their odometers with vehicles that have modern safety features that most of us now consider standard: ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Control, Side Impact Air Bags, and backup cameras. Our average fleet mpg rating will also improve from its current single digit level and fleet emissions will drop as even the new gas powered vehicles will be far more fuel efficient than the vehicles in our fleet now.
Included in the initial plans will be four Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (EV) as well as hybrids and plugin hybrids (PHEV). We currently have none of any of these in our fleet. As our fleet maintenance staff becomes familiar with these vehicles, we will look at adding more EVs and PHEVs to the fleet, especially to the police patrol car inventory. The current patrol cars often spend extended periods of time idling. That reduces their fuel efficiency and increases emissions. Cars that can be plugged in each night can sit for hours with the AC running full blast without burning a drop of gas.
With this technology maturing and with a broad selection of EV and PHEV vehicles hitting the market over the next few years, it was obvious that now was the time for us to make the transition. The first EVs should join the fleet this summer.
Much as my family’s own transition to hybrid and electrical vehicles, the city’s adoption of these new technologies is driven by dollars and cents rather than some overarching desire to be green for green’s sake. Average savings of over $100,000 a year by replacing our old clunkers with modern, fuel efficient vehicles is simply too good a deal to pass up. Doing our part to address climate change by lowering our carbon emissions is simply icing on the cake.
When I look back at the cars and trucks I’ve owned since the 70’s the trend, especially over the last 15 years or so, has been to purchase cars that have had better performance and lower fuel costs. I expect that we will continue that trend going forward. How about you? Do you see an EV or plugin hybrid in your future?
Rob Marlowe, Mayor