A lot of mischief has been done in the name of alternative fuels in Arizona. There was former legislator Jeff Groscost’s alt-fuels bill that cost taxpayers an estimated $200 million in subsidies for luxury-vehicle purchasers.
And then there’s the state law mandating that 75 percent of vehicles owned by cities and towns over 7,500 population must run on natural gas or other alternative fuels.
The mandate is hugely expensive, but it hasn’t ignited a scandal because the cost is spread around the state. We pay the premium for pricier municipal alt-fuels vehicles through our city taxes and fees.
But the Mesa City Council this week said enough is enough after bids for 44 alt-fuels vehicles came in a whopping $254,167 above the bids for gasoline-fueled vehicles. That’s more than a 40 percent premium for very little if any environmental benefit, given the dramatic reductions in emissions from conventional vehicles due to continued advances in automotive technology. Mesa officials say operating costs for the alt-fuels vehicles also are nearly 14 percent higher than for gasoline-fueled vehicles.
The council sensibly voted to buy the conventional vehicles, and to apply for a waiver from the state requirement. But when the Tribune’s Jason Emerson called Arizona Department of Environmental Quality officials for a comment, they’d never heard of their own requirement.
Just as well. But before DEQ bureaucrats get any crazy ideas about enforcing this foolish and expensive mandate, the Legislature should repeal it. The only protest heard over the Mesa City Council’s action was from the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, an industry group that profits from such mandates.
It is probably wise to encourage development and use of alternative energy technologies, but expensive unfunded mandates are not wise at all. Mesa and other East Valley cities should borrow a page from our electric utilities, which give customers the option of paying a little extra on their bills for "green" energy.
Salt River Project’s George Sarkisian tells us that 4,500 SRP customers participate in the utility’s Earthwise Energy Program, which underwrites the additional costs of generating electricity from solar and landfill sources.
Giving city utility customers the option of paying a few dollars more to underwrite purchase of alt-fuel vehicles would be fiscally as well as environmentally responsible.