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Environmental Do-Gooders do Bad in trying to do Good

In his New Year’s Day speech, Arlington County Board chairman, Paul Ferguson, told Arlingtonians that his “special focus” for 2007 would be the environment. He mentioned a number of things which the county has done and could do to make the county more “green.”

Now, the County Manager’s proposed FY 2008 budget includes several “policy priorities” and “strategic options” to implement Mr. Ferguson’s environmental initiative. One of those would provide “additional personal property tax relief to owners of vehicles that qualify as “clean fuel.” The Manager proposes setting aside $20,000 to reimburse the owners of the estimated 950 such cars, which would come at the expense of the personal property tax relief provided to other car owners.

The Toyota Prius is one of several “hybrid” vehicles that qualify for up to $3,400 in energy tax credits from American taxpayers. According to an editorial in last week’s Central Connecticut State University’s student newspaper, the Recorder Online:

“The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate green car is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.”

The Recorder editorial says the Toyota Prius “causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius.” (emphasis added) The paper also notes the plant in Ontario where the nickel for the battery is mined and smelted:

“has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.”

The bottom line, according to the editorial, is that a Prius costs $3.25 per mile over a lifetime of 100,000 miles while the cost per mile for a Hummer is $1.95 over a lifetime of 300,000 miles, not to mention the environmental damage done by the nickel mining in Ontarios. Ask the County Board how many Prius vehicles are in the county’s fleet?

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