State move to efficient
cars urged

Lawmakers are looking to wean the state's fleets of vehicles off fossil fuels.

Under a bill passed last week by the House Finance Committee, all state agencies would need to start increasing their purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles beginning next year.

After 2009, agencies would need to up their purchase of vehicle types less dependent on fossil fuels by 5 percent a year, until they make up 60 percent of new vehicles bought.

The bill estimates the state could save $5,000 over the 14-year life of a highly energy-efficient model.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. J. Kalani English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai) said he would like the state to set an example and adopt requirements similar to the federal government, which mandates that 75 percent of fleet purchases be high-energy-efficiency vehicles.

"That would help to create the markets to bring the prices down for these types of vehicles," said English, chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and International Affairs.

Some car makers have started marketing fuel-efficient models in recent years.

Toyota should be able to meet any demand from the state for its highly sought-after hybrid gas/electric Prius, said Curt Lee, general manager of Servco Automotive, which distributes Toyota vehicles in Hawaii. The wait for a Prius has been cut to one month from four because of increases in production and number of the cars sent to Hawaii, he said.

The Department of Accounting and General Services, which handles vehicle purchases for the state, supports the intent of the bill, said Comptroller Russ Saito in testimony submitted to the committee.

An analysis should be done to determine the savings from each vehicle type, Saito said.

He also pointed out that the savings would not help in the short term.

English said that his role as a senator is to look at more than the immediate costs.

"I really want the state to start building efficient buildings, driving efficient cars, reducing our consumption, reducing our demand and looking at efficiencies," he said.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com