Anna Sobel: When it comes to buying a school bus, let’s do what Greta would do

Monday, November 11, 2019

What would Greta do? In Johanna Neumann’s recent column, “When the rubber hits the road,” she misses the mark.

I’m surprised she makes the case for buying a diesel school bus because she works for Environment America, which is working in Massachusetts to move to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, in both buildings and transportation.

Johanna’s fictional town councilor, Chris, admits that she did the opposite of what Greta Thunberg would do. The purchase of a diesel, rather than an electric, school bus is no way to act “like the house is on fire.” Does Chris understand that we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 in order to have a 50% chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change? That’s what the science tells us.

Chris never even mentioned the existence of grant funding available through the state VW settlement fund, specifically for use in replacing diesel vehicles with electric vehicles, which could have provided 80% of the cost of a $350,000 electric bus and will offer a second round of grant funding soon.

Even without the availability of grant funds, an electric school bus does provide savings over the lifetime of the bus, which Chris did note, but she never mentioned the possibility of temporarily leasing a bus pending the outcome of grant funding. It was notable that Chris voted based on her concern that voters supported the “business as usual” approach.

But she should look closer. Not only do Amherst residents want climate action now, but they also want us to make the purchase that saves us the most money over the long term. Chris is right that bold ideas and thoughtful planning will result in the town moving forward on our whole climate action plan in a year or so.

But in the meantime, we can make sure we are not moving backward. Why would we perpetuate the use of fossil fuels when equipment needs to be replaced, especially for a diesel bus that also exacerbates asthma? For our children, let’s do what Greta would do.

 Anna Sobel