Losing green

The Clark County School District is the latest entity to prove that going green doesn't necessarily save you green.

The district's new bio-diesel-electric hybrid bus makes its debut on valley roads this morning. It's 50 percent more fuel efficient than a regular diesel bus.

"This is pretty exciting, pretty leading edge," said Jane Feldman, a member of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

A regular school bus costs about $120,000. But the school district's hybrid bus cost $170,000. It might get 9 miles per gallon, a slight improvement over the 6 miles per gallon the rest of the fleet gets. So it will take the school district between 20 and 30 years to realize a return, through fuel savings, on the additional $50,000 it spent to buy the fancy new vehicle.

Unfortunately, school buses usually are retired after 14 years, according to Frank Giordano, the district's director of transportation.

That means the bus purchase is a losing financial proposition for the district from the get-go.

Taxpayers are supposed to feel good about the new bus, though, because the school district didn't squeeze classroom budgets to come up with the extra $50,000. That money came from the Sierra Club's 2003 lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration over the widening of U.S. Highway 95 through urban Las Vegas. The school district got $3.5 million for environmental initiatives from that horrendous litigation, which delayed the most important transportation improvement in Southern Nevada and added millions of dollars to overall costs.

In other words, the Sierra Club, with the help of the courts, transferred your tax dollars from one government entity to another. There's no getting around the fact that you paid full price for this new bus -- some of the money came out of your right pocket instead of your left.

So why do it in the first place? To make people such as Ms. Feldman and indoctrinated educators feel good about producing a little less pollution. Mr. Giordano admits the school district wouldn't have bought the bus if it didn't have that settlement money to subsidize the increased cost.

As with a lot of "green" initiatives, it doesn't pencil out. Some sort of intervention is needed, usually in the form of subsidies, to force them on the public -- who end up paying, one way or another.