I have heard that a leader, who has nobody following him or her, is just a person on a walk. I recently shared these words of wisdom with our county supervisors. The subject at hand was the county’s own greenhouse gas emissions footprint, i.e., the greenhouse gases emitted by county operations and county employees. As it turns out, despite all the bloviating about wanting to be a leader in going the way of the Green New Deal, the county’s emissions have actually increased since they started measuring the same.
The hearing detailed a county poll on the commuting habits of county employees, commuting being one of the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our state. No surprise. A significant number of county employees, due to the high cost of housing in Santa Barbara, must commute from either the North County or Ventura County. Nor was it surprising that the overwhelming majority (74 percent) of the employees polled drove alone because they preferred that to either carpooling or mass transit. This, despite the subsidies the county is willing to offer to those employees who are willing to forego these ubiquitous solo commute patterns, including transit discounts and extra vacation days.
I sought to bring attention to the disparate treatment between the public and private sector having to do with the carrot-and-stick approach. That is to say, when it comes to trying to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, the Board of Supervisors is all carrot. But when it comes to dealing with the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the private sector, the board and their staff are all about wielding the proverbial stick.
Specifically, with regard to oil projects, oil producers don’t get much love for going the extra mile in their efforts to significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Why is that? Reducing our carbon footprint should be welcomed and applauded, regardless of who is accomplishing the same.
The ethical thing to do is to apply both sticks and carrots equally to both the public and private sectors. For example, parking is hard to find and can be expensive in downtown Santa Barbara. The polling indicates that raising parking fees or eliminating employee parking lots altogether could actually increase carpooling and the use of mass transit. The same holds true for Goleta Beach, the only area beach with free parking. Nevertheless, the supervisors won’t even consider being so heavy-handed in these instances.
Finally, that commuter train from Ventura to Santa Barbara for which tens of millions of dollars have been set aside? It is a bust. This despite the fact that discounted passes have been handed out like candy since the inaugural run. Only 105 people a day, including a mere 1 percent of county employees polled, are using it.
So, our county supervisors refuse to hold their own employees answerable to their green deal rhetoric. However, they appear ready to stifle local oil operations despite the industry’s earnest efforts to be as green as possible. Honestly, if these decision-makers didn’t have double standards, they would have no standards at all.