Wednesday, June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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Cheers & Jeers: Electric buses; climate woes

The Columbian

Cheers: To electric school buses. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has proposed the Clean School Bus Act to help school districts transition from diesel buses to electric. The bill would provide $1 billion over five years to cover expenses that many districts cannot afford on their own. “I can think of no better time to talk about how critical it is that we finally make an investment in clean energy,” Murray said.

Vancouver Public Schools last year acquired three electric buses through a grant from the state Department of Ecology, and Murray has pointed to the district in promoting her bill. With electric buses costing up to $400,000 each, compared with about $140,000 for a diesel one, the transition is slow; district officials estimate that each bus will save $5,000 to $10,000 a year in fuel costs. Despite the price tag, working to eliminate carbon emissions from the nation’s 500,000 school buses is a wise investment.

Jeers: To climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released figures demonstrating that temperatures are climbing in the United States. The yearly normal temperature throughout the country was 53.3 degrees from 1990-2020 — one degree higher than the average from 1971-2000.

One degree Fahrenheit might not sound like much, but a long-term increase leads to melting glaciers, rising oceans and more extreme weather events. The impact already is being seen through increased hurricane activity, more frequent and severe wildfires, and other disasters.

Cheers: To the U.S. Coast Guard. A distress call from two people in Olympic National Park led to a helicopter rescue in the early hours of Sunday morning. The hikers were stranded near Hoh Head on the Pacific coast and called for help after climbing to escape rising tides. Both hikers were hoisted from the ledge and were reported to be in good condition.

Cheers go to the Coast Guard’s helicopter crew. But jeers are warranted for hikers who got themselves into such a predicament at 2 a.m.

Jeers: To vaccine hesitancy. Coronavirus vaccine supply throughout Washington is starting to outstrip demand. In Clark County, that has translated into an inoculation site at Tower Mall welcoming people who don’t have an appointment; appointments are still available for those who wish to make one. Information for vaccine availability is at the Clark County Public Health website.

In Clark County, about 190,000 residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 130,000 are fully vaccinated. That is a great start, but it is a long way from what is necessary to finally slow COVID-19. As Gov. Jay Inslee said: “We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress.”

Cheers: To ShakeAlert. Washington has launched an earthquake early warning system that will alert residents through cellphones. A network of more than 1,100 seismometers along the West Coast will trigger warnings before people start to feel the ground shake. “This is a key milestone,” said Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. “Giving people just a little more time to take cover and protect themselves and their families can make all the difference.”

While there still is no way to predict when an earthquake will strike, experts say a few seconds of warning can help reduce injuries and deaths from a large temblor. Cheers go to the remarkable technology employed by the system. Now we hope it rarely is put to use.