Endangered yellow taxi? US climate bill could turn them green

September 30, 2009

The sweeping legislation unveiled in the U.S. Senate today aims to curb climate change, arguably one of the biggest tasks ever undertaken on this planet. But it’s a bill that runs to more than 800 pages, and hidden in its folds is a provision that could turn a noted symbol of New York City — the yellow taxicab — green.

And it wouldn’t just be in New York. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and other major U.S. cities would be able to create taxi fleets made up entirely of hybrid vehicles under the proposed Green Taxis Act of 2009.

Offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who now fills Hillary Clinton’s former seat in the Senate, the measure aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 296,000 tons in New York City alone, which its sponsors say would be like taking some 35,000 cars off the road and save drivers $4,500 annually in gas costs.

“By creating an all hybrid taxi fleet, we can improve air quality and lower carbon emissions,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “As a mother with an asthmatic child, I believe this is a win-win for our children and our efforts to combat climate change.”

That has to be a good thing, and it’s not exactly unheard of. A quick search for “green taxi” turns up nearly 70,000 hits. But will New Yorkers say “Fuhgeddaboutit”? Will the Taxi and Limousine Commission oppose it? WIll preservationists balk at changing what has become a durable talisman of life in the Big Apple? Or will New York residents (and other residents of other cities where this law could apply) embrace their inner environmentalists?

Let the debate begin!

Photo credits: REUTERS/Eric Thayer (Taxis drive past carbon counting sign on Deutsche Bank building in Manhattan, June 18, 2009)

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (New York City skyline, Sept 2, 2009)


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Go for it! We are already facing a huge disaster, with what we know will be a 2 meter rise in ocean levels. If we do nothing, and that’s exactly what we’re really doing, then we can have a 15 meter rise in 300 years, essentially destroying our civilization as we know it. We can either invest about 250 billion dollars a year to protect our coasts or that same 250 billion to decrease CO2 levels. China will have 15% of all it’s energy from wind in 20 years. We could to. Germany can have 25% of all it’s energy from solar and we could too. We could easily and quickly reduce our pollution by 45% in 20 years if we chose to. Instead, we condemn our children and their children to poverty and misery. That’s the corporate way, you know. They will make a profit off that disaster.

Posted by robert1234 | Report as abusive

Rode in Prius cab a couple of years ago. Driver said that compared to previous 6 cyl car was saving $12k a year on gas. Nough said, bit of a no brainer even for the corporate types.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

do we think Al Gore should donate some money to this project out of the 100 million he has made by the exaggerated hype that he has uses to give himself the center stage attention that seems to crave for.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I drive a cab part time in San Diego for a small company. Yes the savings would be great but I doubt that smaller companies will be able to purchase new hybrids at a tune of 25 thousand plus. Even with tax breaks on average the manger has told me that it costs an additional 3 to 5 thousand dollars to convert a normal car into a cab. Now I consider myself lucky that the owner has been purchasing more economical cars but even when low millage used cars in their price range presents themselves they only last on average two to four years. So you do the math a small company would not be able to afford a hybrid unless half of the cost is covered by the government and the additional cost would be tacked on to the driver threw his/her daily lease.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

It is the wrong approach. Prescribing a technical solution is wrong, as there are many ways to achieve the result and the prescription only serves to put one technology (that may not be the best) at an advantage. It would be better to settle for strict fuel efficiency standards that become more strict in a predictable pace.

Posted by Martin | Report as abusive

A great idea. Right now cabbies are all driving around in old police cruisers with huge V8 engines – it’s absurd. In Vancouver BC, most cabs are either Pruis’s or Corollas – both are efficient. I agree with the other commenter who says that prescribing a hybrid is the wrong approach – better to set efficiency standards and let the companies decide how to achieve them.

Posted by Evan | Report as abusive

If it’s about energy conservation and taking care of our health as well as our mother earth, then I’m in to it. I believe this idea is brilliant.

I think that’s a great step towards saving the environment. Time will come mother nature will ask for a pay back after everything we did to her planet.