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[April 02, 2008]
Taking step on pledge, city unveils its first hybrid vehicle
(Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, KY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 2--About 5 percent of global warming emissions come from the activities of city governments.
But while those governments are not responsible for the majority of the pollution that causes global warming, the city of Owensboro is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases -- and to encourage the public to do the same.
The city on Tuesday afternoon unveiled its first hybrid vehicle -- a light green Toyota Camry -- at City Hall. During the next year, the hybrid will be studied for fuel efficiency to help officials determine whether to purchase more for the city's fleets, or to use more alternative fuels, such as biodiesel.
The ultimate goal is to cut back on fossil fuel usage, which contributes to global warming. The city also plans to cut its gasoline bill, saving taxpayer dollars.
Facilities Maintenance Manager Lelan Hancock on Tuesday evening gave the City Commission an update on what is being done to reduce energy use.
Earlier this year, Mayor Tom Watson signed the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection, or "Cool Cities," agreement. More than 900 cities have signed the agreement, which calls for them to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent under 1990 levels by 2012.
Owensboro has already taken some actions to cut its energy use by replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with florescent and LED lights, which last longer and use less energy. This month, the city will begin a year-long energy study, which will tell officials how much they need to reduce energy use to meet the "Cool Cities" goal.
"We're taking a step in the right direction," Hancock said.
The hybrid vehicle's fuel efficiency will be evaluated, so officials can determine whether to add hybrid dump trucks and other vehicles to the city's fleet, Hancock said.
"Basically, it's a way to do our own research ... to determine if it's cost effective" to add more hybrids or, instead, to use more alternate fuels, Hancock said.
The hybrid will also be part of the city's public education campaign. "It's decorated to get your attention," Hancock said. "For what the car is being used for, it's ideal."
Ben Taylor, a member of the Pennyrile chapter of the Sierra Club, told City Commission that the "Cool Cities" effort will help the city save money by cutting its energy use.
"The city is now officially embarked on a course that is both prudent and far-sighted," Taylor said. " ... We hope the steps the city is taking will be a positive model to others."
Taylor said local environmental groups are also considering ways to create a curbside recycling program in the city and county.
City Commissioner Candance Castlen Brake said county government should also be involved in paying for a recycling program.
"I hope you will continue to remember the several million dollars in property taxes we give county government," Brake said. "Maybe they can pay us back" by funding curbside recycling, Brake said.
After the commission meeting, Sierra Club member Lee Dew said the city's effort will show that people can save money by using energy more efficiently. Residents can see similar savings by using energy efficient light bulbs and by replacing old appliances with "Energy Star" rated appliances that consume much less power, he said.
"When we put all LED lights in our house, it made a dramatic difference in our electric bill," Dew said. "Driving the (Toyota) Prius cut our gas consumption by 50 percent.
"While city government is not a major contributor (to global warming), certainly city government can set an example for the rest of the community," Dew said.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
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