In Buzz Commentary

Getting out of your car and onto mass transit can save beaucoup bucks, a report says.

Using mass transit saves big bucks, report says

We can each save more than $8,000 a year by taking mass transit says an American Public Transportation Association report. If gas prices stay in the $3.90 a gallon range (unlikely at this point) the association predicts a person can save around $672 a month -- more than the average household spends on food.

Among the top 20 cities with the highest ridership, Honolulu wins the savings title, amounting to $8,703 a year, Minneapolis riders saved about $8,104 a year by taking the bus and Chicago amounted to $8,100. Milwaukee did not make the list.

The association says its study is based on the assumption that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase an unlimited pass on the local transit agency, typically available on a monthly basis.

The cost of driving is calculated using the 2008 AAA formula, which includes the cost of gas, maintenance and tires as well as insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges.

The comparison also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.4 miles per gallon and today's price for self-serve regular unleaded as recorded by AAA at $3.909 per gallon. The analysis assumes that a person drives an average of 15,000 miles per year.

Clean Water Compromise: Two environmental groups that have argued that Lake Michigan could be hurt by the new We Energies Oak Creek power plant should be required to change its controversial cooling method, have agreed to a compromise.

Perhaps it was the daunting task that would have eaten up a lot of court time and lawyers' fees that brought the groups around. Nonetheless, the announced compromise has the utility companies contributing $105 million in Lake Michigan water improvements over 25 years.

Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club had argued that the new power plant would harm Lake Michigan's water by pumping 1.8 billion gallons a day for cooling the $2.3 billion plant. The matter has been inn court for three years with the groups saying We Energies' plan didn't use the best available technology and should have used cooling towers, which would be much less stressful to the lake.

Under terms of the settlement:

  • Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club agree to withdraw their lawsuit.
  • The owners of the Oak Creek plant, led by We Energies will fund $4 million a year from 2010 through 2035 for projects to address water quality issues in Lake Michigan such as invasive species, polluted runoff, toxic loadings, and habitat destruction.
  • We Energies will retire two coal-fired units in Presque Isle, Michigan.
  • We Energies will ask the Public Service Commission for approval to construct 50 megawatts of 100% biomass-fueled power in Wisconsin.
  • The owners of the plant, which also include Wisconsin Public Power Inc. and Madison Gas & Electric Co., will purchase or construct 15 megawatts of solar generation by Jan. 1, 2015.
  • The plant owners agree to support legislative efforts to establish a renewable energy portfolio standard of 10% by 2013 and 25% by 2025.

"This settlement provides the long-term commitment of resources necessary to help find solutions to many of the issues Lake Michigan faces today," said Mark Redsten, executive director at Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest environmental advocacy organization in a statement.

"There are cleaner, cheaper and smarter energy choices than the continued reliance on coal-fired power plants. However, this agreement represents a good compromise that will help us advance critical water quality improvements and renewable energy objectives in our state," added Eric Uram of the Sierra Club.

Smoking Ban Banned: A rare occurrence on the smoking ban front this week -- a Wisconsin municipality that decided not to ban smoking everywhere. The Weston Village Board instead voted to reaffirm a resolution asking the state to decide the issue because having individual municipalities continue to ban smoking doesn't keep the playing field level. Weston is in Marathon County and is close to Wausau, which bans smoking in restaurants.

Mixing Politics and Religion: It's not exactly comforting news for religious liberals. The unemployed Knoxville, Tenn., man who is accused of shooting nine people and killing two of them did so because of his "stated hatred of the liberal movement," according to that city's police chief. The man opened fire at a children's play based on the musical "Annie," while shouting "hateful things" at the Sunday night crowd of the local Unitarian-Universalist church, according to the Associated Press.

The Unitarian-Universalist church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville congregation also has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.


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