Hybrid vehicles and green buildings might seem an odd match — one goes down the road, the other stays in one place forever — but a focus on reduced energy consumption unites them. Hybrid car sales in the US in 2006 reached 200,000, about 1% of the overall vehicle sales. However, an early 2007 survey of auto industry executives revealed that 71% believe hybrids will become more important as a US market force, with between 200,000 and 500,000 cars selling in 2007.
However, it's clear that hybrid sales are also tied to fuel prices. For example, between August 2006 and December 2006, gasoline prices declined 24% and hybrid sales declined 31%.73 Federal tax credits for hybrids also sweeten the financial benefit of reduced gas use. In 2007 the tax credit for hybrids ranges from $650 to $3,150, depending on the make and model and the total number of hybrids sold since the credit began. The credit phases out in 2009.74
Many companies in the green building industry that want to distinguish themselves in terms of their commitment to sustainability are embracing hybrids for their own fleets and sometimes even subsidizing employees to purchase hybrids for their own use. Certainly, among certain "eco-elites," having a Toyota Prius has become a status symbol, a visible sign that the owner cares about lowering gasoline consumption and is willing to spend a little more to do so. But, buying and operating hybrid and highly fuel-efficient cars and trucks is more than a status symbol or a way to get a LEED point in a new project; it is also a component of a more sustainable future for any business. Why not become more competitive by lowering your cost of operations through reduced fuel use?
In the LEED for New Construction rating system, a credit point is granted under Alternative Transportation for providing low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles for 3% of the full-time equivalent (FTE) occupants and providing preferred parking for those vehicles. If a building has 200 full-time occupants, for example, an owner could qualify for this credit by providing six of these vehicles for use, perhaps for carpools. (To qualify, cars have to be Zero Emission Vehicles or score 40 or more on a green score. For 2006, Honda and Toyota hybrids qualified.)75
With more than 60% of America's oil coming from foreign sources, ranging from the stable Saudi Arabia to the very unstable Iraq and Iran, to the politically questionable sources in Latin America, why shouldn't we vote for greater national security through reduced fuel purchases? Cutting gasoline consumption is one of the few things you can do on a daily basis that has such a dramatic and immediate impact on national security. Don't forget we live in a world where peak oil production is likely to come not only in your lifetime, but within your working life. Worldwide, we continue to extract far more oil each year than we discover, meaning that we are drawing down the available resource faster than it's being replenished. One industry expert claims that the last time we found as much new oil as we pumped was 1988, nearly 20 years ago. The imbalance widens each year. In 2005, according to this analyst, we only replaced 20% of the oil that was pumped with proven new supplies.76
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