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Bad Environmental Protection
Posted by: Jon Henke on Saturday, June 03, 2006

I've discussed the science behind global warming previously, but let's observe a good example of how not to react. NoonzWheels observes that San Francisco has taken delivery of "its first Orion diesel-electric hybrid bus from DaimlerChrysler yesterday", out of a total of 56 ordered. On the plus side, "they are 30% more efficient than diesel-only buses", and there is some evidence that they will incur lower maintenance costs. On the emissions front, they "reduce the particulates spewing out of the tailpipe by about 90 percent. Nitrogen/oxygen compounds are reduced by about 40 percent, and greenhouse gases overall are reduced by about 30 percent."

All of which sounds good, until you start doing the cost/benefit calculation. As NoonzWheels points out...
The hybrid buses cost $480,000 a pop (whoa!). Non-hybrid versions sell for around $280,000. Multiply the difference by 56, and that is an extra $11.2 million shelled out by the taxpayers. I know that you pay a premium when you choose a hybrid, but this seems a bit extreme.

By comparison, the 13,000 barrels of oil supposedly saved add up to only $936,000 if you use today's price of $72/barrel. And even if maintenance costs are reduced, I can't see that savings covering the remaining $10,000,000 gap. Yes, environmentalists would likely argue that the improved air quality resulting from the use of a zero-emissions fleet over time would yield incalculable healthcare savings, but putting a numerical value on that is still speculation.
When discussing anthropogenic global warming and what, if anything, to do about it, it is important to make decisions based on the best available science. That includes the dismal science of economics.

No doubt the reduction in emissions is worth something, but for ~$10m, San Francisco could have done a great deal more to reduce emissions than merely reduce the pollution of a few buses. In this case, the politicians of the City of San Francisco have paid ~$10 million to make themselves feel good — that's a hefty Moral Vanity Premium.

UPDATE: Noonzwheels offers a slight correction to his numbers. With the corrected estimate, the Moral Vanity Premium is about $7 million. Less, but not in any way that alters the point.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

recently ive read something very interesting on the enviroment. it seems that mercury in the water, food additives and other such things destroy the central nervous system of children in the womb. the central nervous sysytem is responsible for everything in the body from appetite to hormone production to fighting of disease. the article cited that this is the reason for the obesity epidemic, a major increase in children born with learning difficulties, adult and especially childhood cancer and a whole host of mental illnesses. there are numerous studies to back this up, yet no one in the mainstyreem news is addressing this issue. on the obesity front the party line corperations trumpet, is, that americans are fat because they are lazy and eat to much. many docters say the problem is glandular that the thyroid gland and other gland that improve metabolism are inactive even if people excercise. this is due to the central nervous system and its innefficiency in giving and recieving messages from the brain. since the 1980s there has been a major increase in the childhood cancer, learning difficulties and obesity so its not a diagnostic anomilly. there has been small mention of this in the mainstream news. it was a cnn special on china (it aired in cnn europe i assume it aired in america as well). it stated that pollution such as mercury destroys the central nervous system. but the whole episode was about how chinas pollution is drifting toward america. only in a sneaky disclaimer at the end of the show did they admit that the majority of pollition in america came from america. this disclaimer was barely noticeable and gave a false impression as to the scale and ratio of amercia to chinease pollution. this is one of the biggest stories of our time. it effects virtouly all areas of life, and is indeed also a matter of life and death. it is obvious that the corperate media is keeping this quite, because they do not want corperetions to take resonsibility for the increased cancer and obesity rates and they also do not want people to sue the corperations like they did the tabacco companies in the past. i hope you get this story out, i hope it gains traction among the bloggers to such an extent that the mainstream media cant ignore it. the statistics and studies are out there for anyone who is willing to look. i hope you and others write more on this subject.
Written By: kevin murphy
URL: http://
the statistics and studies are out there for anyone who is willing to look
Dude, so are dictionaries...make the investment.
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Statistics show that before 1895 nobody died of heart attacks. I think this can be directly related to the Closing of the Frontier. Either that or the fact that heart attack was never listed on the death certificate before 1895, but the statistics and studies are out there for anyone who is willing to look.
Written By: JorgXMcKie
URL: http://

Thanks for the link. This morning, I realized that my calculation was was flawed when I arrived at the $10 million figure for the gap.

It’s smaller than that.

Here’s part of the update I posted this morning:

I used the 13,000 barrels of oil as the basis for my calculation. That was not smart, because unrefined crude prices, while high today, are not what we pay at the pump. The $936,000 number I use is too low.

I should have used the 1.2 million gallons of diesel saved. If you multiply that by $3.00 (which is in the ballpark for what diesel costs in California today), that $980,000 I cite jumps up to $3.2 million saved. That’s almost 4 times the original, inaccurate amount I used. As a result, the $10 million gap drops to around $6.8 million. That’s still a lot of money, but it is significantly lower than what I incorrectly reported in the original post.

My most sincere apologies for the mistake.

Written By: Alex Nunez
There is a good reason why few people died of heart disease and cancer in the past, because they didn’t live long enough.
Look, Kevin, I am all for a clean environment. You might be on to something when it comes to food preservatives, but as to mercury and other pollutants, we are not still living in the 1970’s. The USA is very, very clean environmentally by world standards. Although air pollution is still a problem in some cities. And Americans are obese because no one cooks anymore, when your children grow up on fast food thats what happens, even back in the 1960’s we knew of families like that in my hometown, all the kids were obese.

I guess what I am trying to say is; don’t fall for alarmism.

AS to the buses, I will say this in their defense. If enough demand were out there for such vehicles then the price would fall as more were made through economies of scale. I am all for idiot socialist states like San Francisco paying through the nose. It serves them right. "A fool and his money are soon parted"
Written By: kyle N
And I suppose, that in San Fran, the amount of waste oil from fast food places is less (since they all eat healthy there right.)

So, the availablility of bio-diesel would be less then say, Indianapolis, where fast fried food reigns supreme.

I would think a natural gas hybrid would give a better return on investment, since I believe it pollutes less, and the cost for fuel is less.

Of course, there goes the market again. If there were a market for it, surely someone would be providing it.
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Keith, in the article I based my post on, it was reported that SF looked into natural gas-powered buses. The decision-makers concluded that NG would not perform as well in the hilly environment there.
Written By: Alex Nunez

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