Newsom shopping for eco-friendly car 

It's not easy touting yourself as an environmentally friendly city leader, as Mayor Gavin Newsom has, while being chauffeured in a black Lincoln Town Car.

Before he became Mayor, Newsom did spend several years getting around town in an electric car, but now security demands force him into a bigger car.

Recently, Newsom asked Jeff Lindberg, the San Francisco Police Department investigator who runs his security detail, if there was a hybrid Town Car, or some other less polluting vehicle, that could be used for his transportation.

"The challenge is, all the equipment that goes on these cars, they're in essence a police vehicle with all kinds of sirens and communications equipment and they're heavier," said Newsom. "It's hard to integrate all those things that they feel are strongly needed."

Michael Fadis, the owner of Green Car Limo service, said since no hybrid Town Car exists, Newsom might consider converting his vehicle to cleaner-burning natural gas.

"If I was the mayor of San Francisco and wanted to turn my wheels green, I'd look at one of the [hybrid] SUVs available," said Fadis.

Newsom said he'd hesitate to be squired around in an SUV, due to the "symbolism" of the gas-guzzlers.

So, while he continues his search, Newsom said he's started buying what's known as "carbon offsets," to help make up for the damage caused by his Town Car's polluting emissions.

The hottest-craze among those trying to do the right thing, environmentally, is buying carbon offsets which, in theory, allow someone to pollute and then offset it by paying for some other organization or company to do something to help clean up the planet .

"People can criticize and argue against it, but it's better than doing nothing in the interim," said Newsom.

According to Newsom's spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, the Mayor started purchasing carbon offsets this year, through a San Francisco-based company named TerraPass.

On the company's website, a customer can type in the make and model of their vehicle, as well as their approximate miles driven per year, and find out how much toxic carbon dioxide they're emitting. Newsom paid the company approximately $100 for this year, meaning the Mayor's Town Car emits more than 28,000 lbs of CO2 a year.

TerraPass promises to use some of those funds to support clean energy from sources like wind farms and methane capture facilities.

The company made headlines this year for donating carbon credits to celebrities attending this year's Academy Awards, but also over questions about the poor environmental record of one of the companies it supports. TerraPass President Tom Arnold told The Examiner that the company has an independent review committee looking into the matter.

beslinger@examiner.com

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