Electric bus idea keeps spinning its wheels

Like the “Charge of the Light Brigade” at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, New York state is charging headlong towards forcing all schools to begin replacing diesel powered buses with electric buses beginning in 2027 with the entire state fleet being all electric by 2035. One only has to look at the finances of the matter to realize that the results could be almost as tragic for New York taxpayers as they were for the Light Brigade 170 years ago.

Earlier this year, when I first wrote about the mandate to convert all school buses to battery power by 2035, I was most concerned about a hasty switch to an untried and expensive technology. But now after running the numbers I am not as concerned about that as I am about the fact that the Governor and her Democratic lackeys in the Legislature seem bent on bankrupting the state to pacify climate change activists.

What are the numbers, you might wonder. To begin with, full-size “Type C” or “Type D” buses on average cost $325,000 — about three and a half times the price of diesel buses, which costs less than $100,000. Also, when replacement is necessary, a new diesel engine costs from $4,500 to $13,500 compared to a replacement battery that costs $50,000.

The Environmental Bond Act passed in 2022 will provide $500 million in funding to aid school districts in making the transition.

However, keep in mind that an electrically powered bus costs between $185,000 and $275,000 more than diesel buses and charging infrastructure upgrades cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. Therefore, with the total estimated cost of transitioning the entire New York state school bus fleet numbering 50,000 buses lying somewhere between $8 billion and $15.25 billion you begin to realize that the real burden of transitioning to electric buses will be placed on the long suffering taxpayers of New York.

State Sen. George Borrello has confirmed that the conversion “will have a price tag in the billions” and that taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill. He added that like so much of the state’s climate agenda there is no cost-benefit analysis of this mandate or any realistic plan for how to pay for it

He also stated that “as the 2027 implementation date of New York’s electric bus mandate approaches, school officials in my district and around the state are becoming increasingly concerned about the tremendous financial and operational challenges associated with this one-size-fits-all requirement.”

In New York, where the purchase of new buses historically are overwhelmingly approved by voters, electric school buses are not always approved. Several districts in New York that included Marathon in Cortland County and Boonville in Oneida County each rejected proposals to buy three electric buses even though both came with EPA grants that would have cut the price. And in the Onteora school district in Ulster County in 2023 the school board rejected an $8.5 million EPA grant to buy 21 Electric buses.

It’s obvious that school boards and districts in New York are aware of the financial ramifications and the impact on taxpayers in converting to electric buses. The real problem

stems from Albany politics. Gov. Kathy Hochul is not a leader but a follower who listens nervously to her progressive base who all suffer from the apocalyptic mindset that we will all be dead in the next six or seven years if we don’t arrest climate change. Climates always change and always will and anyone who thinks that forcing New York school districts and taxpayers to purchase billions of dollars of untested zero emissions technology will make any difference in controlling climate change should rethink their position.

My advice to our governor is to stop listening to Manhattan progressives and consider the impact of questionable spending on taxpayers who are attempting to survive and raise families in a state with the cruelest tax burden in the nation. New York’s current motto is “Excelsior” which in Latin means “Ever Upward.” Perhaps a new motto “Abyssus” Latin for “Bottomless Pit” should be considered.

Will it really make any difference if New York state goes a few more years or even a few decades before converting our school bus fleets to electric especially when you consider that the electric power used to charge their batteries will be generated by coal fired power plants in Pennsylvania for the foreseeable future? Considering that the Earth’s atmosphere is a single interconnected unit will it make any difference what we do in the short term when the United States is ranked at number 102 in air quality while nations like China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, and Russia are in the top 10 and pollute like there is no tomorrow?

Battery powered cars were all the rage until buyers balked at limited range exacerbated by cold weather and other issues. A Tesla sedan is not a school bus but problems with electric cars could portend bigger problems in larger vehicles. There are other technologies such as propane, natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells that should be investigated.

So, let’s stop making unrealistic demands on taxpayers and setting unrealistic deadlines for school districts and force the real polluters to clean up their act.

Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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