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EPA Wasted $13,000 on Low-MPG Car Rentals in Copenhagen — Were Offered Free Zero Emission Cars (PJM Exclusive)

At last December’s UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ran up a $13,000 bill for conventional combustion engine cars, a private driver, and old-fashioned baggage vans, according to government records.

The EPA paid more in two weeks for cars than most Americans make in a month. Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, chose to ignore Copenhagen’s readily available crunchy alternatives, like hybrids or algae-fueled vehicles that were available — for free — to VIPs and governments through the Danish Foreign Ministry, or demonstration cars that ran on new green fuels produced by California companies. Jackson rented from the very conventional Avis, and drove around in a 158-horsepower, 16 valve conventional gas-powered Ford Mondeo.

The car that Lisa Jackson and her driver used in Copenhagen would have failed the president’s new fuel efficiency standards released yesterday of 35.5 miles per gallon. Her Mondeo only got 25.2 miles per gallon.

Copenhagen isn’t Los Angeles, where mass transit is as prevalent as ice storms. All UN delegates received free passes for public transport throughout the Danish capital, and there were many “green” cars and experimental demonstration vehicles swarming throughout.

Had Ms. Jackson rented from the other conventional company in the city, Hertz, she could have chosen from a “green” line of cars made available in Copenhagen. Or — if she was in love with the Ford Mondeo — she could have rented a 1.8-liter diesel version, and have generated half the carbon dioxide during the climate change conference.

But she didn’t.

According to official government documents, Ms. Jackson charged taxpayers $8,732 for a car — and driver — over six days, as she conventionally crawled through traffic congestion in downtown Copenhagen. An additional $3,457 went towards another Ford and at least two vans to carry the delegation’s baggage.

Details of EPA’s rather unimaginative transportation choices at the climate change parley were obtained by Pajamas Media and PJTV with a Freedom of Information Act request from the agency.

EPA did not return our requests for comment about the records.

Here is Ms. Jackson’s “carbon footprint” from Copenhagen:

  • Her car emitted twice the CO2 of a diesel vehicle (Ford makes the same Mondeo with a diesel engine).
  • Mondeo is the second highest CO2 emitter among all vehicle classes at 223g/km. (If it was 226g/km, it would be the highest emitter of CO2 among sedans.)
  • Her car emitted 24% more CO2 than the “average” new UK vehicle (223g/km vs. UK average of 179g/km).
  • Her car emitted more than double the CO2 of a hybrid (223g/km vs. 89g/km for hybrids in UK).
  • Her car got 25.2 mpg, average for the U.S. fleet and below average for European cars.

In a March 5, 2010, blog post, Lisa Jackson scolded her readers:

Environmentalism isn’t a boutique issue that affects only a few. … Protecting our air, water and land is all of our jobs. I want to help people see the many ways that environmental issues affect their daily lives.

She didn’t take her own advice in Copenhagen. She instead did what most Americans do out of necessity, practicality, and reason, though the availability of free, “green” transportation made her choice unreasonable and certainly unnecessary.

Jackson spoke to the delegates during her stay:

We have reached the first point in history where the impact of everyday human activities is affecting the health of our entire planet. Our commerce and trade, our population growth, and our social behavior are having profound effects on our environment.

We owe it to ourselves, our fellow nations, and future generations to rise to this moment of challenge.

For President Obama and the United States, that global effort starts at home.

As a start, we are working to revitalize and refashion the U.S. economy for the low-carbon, clean energy future.

President Obama has also asked federal government to lead by example, through an Executive Order on Federal Sustainability.

The Executive Order on Federal Sustainability calls for lower greenhouse gas emissions in the federal government’s fleet of cars through its leasing program. Hmm.

On December 2, 2009, a caravan of hydrogen cars took a 27-mile trip from Sweden to Copenhagen ahead of the conference to highlight the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway project. Many of these cars were available to the U.S. Embassy and EPA in Copenhagen, as was an electric, carbon-free Mercedes.

The algae fuel cars, created by San Francisco-based Solazyme Inc. and given for free to journalists and delegates, were used by many celebrities and notables at the conference: Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson, four Nobel laureates, and UN Climate Change Conference head Rajendra Pachauri each drove one.

The takeaway from Ms. Jackson’s “let them eat cake” moment? Good intentions and noble speeches regarding environmentalism are not to be trusted from this administration.

Though considering the massively impractical and economically impossible goals environmentalists discuss, perhaps we should have known this by now. In January 2009, California startup Better Place dedicated itself to building the world’s electric car infrastructure. It promised that Denmark would have 100,000 charging spots in place by the time of the UN party.

They finished 55.

[Update: The EPA called PJM on the morning of April 2, offering to comment on this story; our request for comment had gone unanswered up to then.  We agreed; however, the EPA hasn’t completed the contact.  We continue to hope for an EPA response. — Editors]