The city of San Francisco has managed to dranatically cut greenhouse emissions by switching to a mostly hybrid taxi fleet. San Francisco’s achievement can be a model for the rest of the USA and the world, but a similar initiative in New York has failed.
San Francisco, which is already one of the most advanced cities in the world with regard to environmental issues, has managed to convert an impressive 85% of its taxi fleet to hybrids, while an additional 7-8% run on compressed natural gas. The cleaner taxis alone have managed to reduce San Francisco’ s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20% below 1990 levels and more than 50% below 2005 levels in three years. That’ s a cut of more than 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide, which is actually greater than the 40,000 tons saved by the city’ s other efforts, which include a high-efficiency lighting program, solar panels on the Moscone Center and weatherization efforts.
The climate progress isn’ t just a fringe benefit, it’ s the law. A 2008 local law required greenhouse reductions of 20 percent below 1990 levels by this year. This is more significant than it sounds as within this time span the city’s taxi fleet has more than doubled in size! According to statistics, the taxi fleet emitted 70,000 tons of greenhouse gases in 1990, and 110,000 tons in 2008. But it’ s only 41,000 tons in 2012.
What’ s happening in San Francisco is quite a contrast to New York City, which has a large hybrid taxi fleet now but because of lawsuits is switching to Nissan’ s non-hybrid “Taxi of Tomorrow’. New York mayor Bloomberg is an enthusiastic hybrid backer, but his hand was forced by a series of unfortunate lawsuits that challenged the city’ s right to switch to an all-green fleet. The city lost a lawsuit contending that its right to set taxi policy was pre-empted by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (ECA), which authorized the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules. Those now require auto fleets to reach 54.5 mpg by 2025, but they don’ t let municipalities like New York set their own fuel economy rules. The same argument has been used’”unsuccessfully’”to challenge California’ s global warming law. However, California won on something of a technicality, because it set climate emission rules, not fuel economy standards. The two have pretty much the same result in practice, but not legally.
In any case, visitors to Boston, New York, Vancouver, Philadelphia and many other cities can see that hybrids are winning the battle for the streets, even in the absence of specific mandates. In the form of the Toyota Prius, they’ re also a mainstay in Tokyo. Apart from the positive effect on greenhouse gas emmissions, taxi drivers, and owners usually, just like saving all that fuel. And the cars have proven very dependable on the road, too, with some San Francisco cars hitting 300,000 miles on a single set of batteries. It seems that the hybrid taxi is here to stay!
The original article can be found on the Mother Nature Network website, here.