Bring on the tax 

Fred Hendy has a box full of instruction books on the floor of his office at Squamish’s public works yard on Government Road. He cranes his lanky frame over the box, fishes out a book and thumbs lightly through the pages.

“We’ll put these in every vehicle,” he says. “They’ll help with good maintenance.”

As fleet manager with the District of Squamish, Hendy spends a lot of time thinking about things like vehicle maintenance and information dissemination. There are costs to control, emissions to moderate. There’s research to do and ideas to exchange. And Hendy wants all his drivers on the up and up. In fact, he wants everyone on the up and up.

Even before the Gordon Campbell Liberals announced their plan to levy a progressive carbon tax starting in July, Hendy’s department was hard at work seeking out alternatives to conventional fuel. He’s got 50 vehicles in his fleet, and, depending on the ferocity of the winter, they use 100,000 to 140,000 litres of diesel and gasoline each year. Even without the carbon tax, the cost of fuel can be intimidating, especially when purchased in such volume. The tax starts at 2.4 cents per litre in July, growing to 7.2 cents by 2012.

“Multiply that by 100,000,” Hendy says, “and it’s not the kind of thing you can budget for.”

And then there’s the carbon footprint end of things, a different sort of cost the district has pledged to control. To that end, and like many other jurisdictions around the country, Squamish has been experimenting with biofuels. Using half a dozen vehicles, the district launched a pilot project in October 2006. They borrowed a tank from Whistler to help make it happen, and now all vehicles use a 20 per cent mixture in the summer, and 5 per cent mixture in the winter.

“We’ve got to get rid of these old ways of thinking,” Hendy says.

He’s not the only one in the Sea to Sky corridor with an eye on tomorrow. School District 48 (Howe Sound) is also preparing to absorb the new operating costs presented by the carbon tax. But, like the municipality, simply budgeting for the increase is not the only initiative on the table.

“What we’ve done, first of all, is all of our busses that we order have Mercedes engines,” says District 48 superintendent Rick Erickson, “and Mercedes are one of the most efficient diesel engines that are produced. Our fleet, we have those motors in there.

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