For cities, anyway, at this time.
College Station, the maroon-hued home of Texas A&M University, is finding it is not easy being green.
Four years after launching an ambitious local effort to fight global warming, city leaders say their high hopes have fallen to hard economic realities, forcing them to abandon their green-at-all-costs approach.
The College Station City Council decided last month that its green efforts should be “fiscally responsible” and create “a real and tangible return of investment to the city.” The city also no longer will strive be a leader in energy efficiency and the reduction of emissions from carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.
“Enthusiasm remains, but it is tempered by the current economy,” said Bob Cowell, the city’s planning director.
So, now the city, for example, will look at the cost of maintenance and the lifespan of a hybrid vehicle before buying one. If the objective is a greener fleet, the city may look at reducing its size, instead of adding another hybrid, Cowell said.
“We are being a little more deliberate,” he said.
The problem is that these things have sizable up front costs, which are recouped over some number of years in lower energy expenses. Cities and states are still feeling large effects of the economic collapse from 2008, so investments of all kinds tend to get deferred, no matter how good the payoff is. The federal government helped once with the stimulus, and it would make a lot of sense to do it again what with interest rates being as low as they are and the need being as strong as ever, but suffice it to say that ain’t gonna happen any time soon. So here we are, and when cities are able to start doing this again it’ll wind up costing them more, both from the lost time and from higher interest payments.