Mayor of Salt Lake City
In Salt Lake City, we've been able to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in our municipal operations by 31 percent in four years. We've eliminated 143 cars from the city's light vehicle fleet, and replaced 41 SUVs with smaller, more efficient cars. By retrofitting all city and county buildings with compact fluorescent bulbs, we save the city $33,000 a year. We then invest one third of that in wind power, making Salt Lake City the state's largest purchaser of wind power. We also changed all the city's traffic lights from incandescent bulbs to LED lights, which saves about $50,000 a year in electricity while also reducing annual carbon emissions by 500 tons. Those are just a few small, easy changes that net out thousands of dollars of savings for taxpayers that will quickly add up to millions.
As for transportation, we've helped expand the area's light rail system very rapidly. Before the first line was built, we faced great opposition. It's been such a success though, communities throughout the Wasatch front are now clamoring for light and commuter rail expansions, voting on things like sales tax increases to fund it. And these are some of the most conservative counties on the planet. I think someday we'll be able to live here and not be dependent on an automobile. Until then, we're rewarding people who drive high-efficiency cars. If you do, our transportation division will put a decal on your back window that allows you to park at city meters for free.
Climate change is the most urgent issue facing our planet today, and there will be impacts on every local community. So to me, the question really comes down to leadership. Whatever role a person plays in their local community, in their nation, or on an international level, we're completely abrogating our responsibilities as leaders if we don't do everything we can at every level to help solve rather than exacerbate the problem. The importance of local action is not only reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but also demonstrating it can be done without the economic devastation that's been perpetuated by the Bush administration.
I think we've done a tremendous amount of damage to the planet, but I wouldn't work as hard as I do if I weren't extremely optimistic. There's no question that we have the technologies necessary to address climate change. All we're really missing is the element of leadership.