Debra J. Saunders

Who says that the issue of global warming is a matter of science, not faith? Just last week, Mayor Gavin Newsom proved belief trumps data. The Chronicle reported that a San Francisco Public Utilities Commission study found that the giant turbines he wanted to put underwater below the Golden Gate Bridge would cost way too much money to install and maintain. They would generate power at a cost of 80 cents to $1.40 per kilowatt hour -- as opposed to Pacific Gas and Electric's 12 cents per hour commercial rate. It seems the turbines would produce only one or two megawatts of power -- not the 38 megawatts Newsom envisioned.

Newsom was unfazed. "I don't care about the arguments against it. I care about the arguments for it," Newsom told Chronicle reporter Cecilia Vega.

And: "It's a question of your subjectivity. If you're opposed to (the idea of tidal power) or want to oppose it, you're going to find reasons not to do it. If you're for it and you believe it's something that should be done and can be done, then you're going to find a way to make it happen."

Or to paraphrase Genesis, The Mayor saith: Let there be turbine light, and there was turbine light. And the Mayor saw that the turbine light was good. Forget the debate -- and there still is a debate -- about whether global warming is caused by man or other factors. Everyone can agree that projects that improve energy efficiency and reduce polluting greenhouse gases are good for national security and America's health.

Then why are the biggest global warming believers more interested in their good intentions than they are in achieving results?

In February, the San Jose Mercury News reported on how the Valley Transportation Authority found that the VTA's three zero-emission buses (ZEBs) cost $51.66 per mile to fuel, maintain and operate -- compared to $1.61 per mile for a diesel bus.

No worries. The California Air Resources Board wants to expand ZEBs. CARB regulations mandate that by 2012, 15 percent of buses purchased by larger transit agencies will be ZEBs.

Which makes no sense when transit agencies can purchase hybrid buses -- which reduce foul bus emissions at a fraction of the ZEB cost. VTA General Manager Michael Burns told me that he's not anti-ZEB, but until the technology improves and the price tag decreases, "hybrids would be a better investment." He guess-timated that the VTA could buy six hybrids for the cost of one ZEB -- and the hybrids would do more for air quality today.

"Let's focus on trying to do what we can to not only achieve the long-term goals, but also in the shorter term, to be able to do things that improve air quality," Burns said.

Debra J. Saunders

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