Debra J. Saunders

The VTA project has been so expensive, CARB's Gennet Paauwe explained, because it is a demonstration project. When there are more ZEBs, the cost will go down. What about the CARB claim that the next generation of ZEBs will be cheaper to operate than today's diesel buses? She referred me to AC Transit. AC Transit's Clarence Johnson told me the agency will be paying $1.63 per mile more for ZEBs than diesel buses -- and that doesn't include maintenance costs, which will be picked up by project partners.

In the land of Green Giants, money is no object. Despite a projected $233 million deficit next year, Newsom has 25 staffers working on global-warming issues in various agencies.

If Newsom wants to curb carbon emissions, he could stop jetting around the globe, limit city employee travel and turn down the bright lights. Or better yet, as former supporter Wade Randlett told The Chronicle, Newsom could fix Muni so that more San Franciscans want to use public transit.

But fixing Muni won't win Newsom a starring role on the green stage. What will turn heads more at the Davos Economic Forum -- improving public transit or trumpeting that Newsom and his small army are riding the wave of water power? Heeding the PUC study isn't going to get Newsom in a photo next to Virgin's Richard Branson.

This is typical: Plan Newsom proposes that when city staffers fly, their offices pay into a "carbon offset" fund that is supposed to reduce greenhouse gases elsewhere. They pollute, then use tax money to help someone else to pollute less.

"The loudest, noisiest, bossiest people in this debate have shown no interest in leading by example," noted global-warming skeptic Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "It's about other people making sacrifices." And other people paying for it.

Debra J. Saunders

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