Green Wheels: Steady Habits

FAIRFIELD — Last week, I attended the opening of the Fairfield University Accelerator and Mentoring Enterprise (FAME). It's a fancy name for a 1,300-square-foot space above Fairfield University's downtown bookstore that will become a shared office for three newly hatched businesses — a "baked to order" dessert purveyor named With Love From the Cupboard, a Bluetooth-enabled powerstrip company (Watt U Control) and the green-themed Conscious Decisions, based on an idea entrepreneur Daphne Dixon — an indefatigable environmental activist around Connecticut — had when she was 10.

The idea is that the three businesses — to occupy the space for six months to a year, then make way for the next — will be mentored by community business leaders and university professors. Dixon, founder or co-founder of Fairfield Green Drinks, the Fairfield County Green Faire, Live Green Connecticut and Resilient CT Workshop, says her aim is "bring together community leaders with products and services that will provide economic payback and environmental protection."

Fairfield is as good a place as any for such an endeavor. Dixon points to the solar going up on municipal buildings and schools, the large number of homeowners buying green power, and the proliferation of electric cars in town — aided by four public EV chargers.

In fact, Connecticut is poised to become an EV leader, when it joined with seven other states in a coalition that's designed to put 3.3 million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2025. We're joined California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. All of the participants follow California's zero-emission rules.

At the incubator opening, I ran into State Senator John McKinney, a Republican contender for governor. I pointed out that although the state (and in particular Daniel Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) are committed to a goal of having 200 public chargers in the state by the end of this year, there's still nothing being done for individual consumers who want to buy electric cars.

"That's not true," McKinney said. "We passed, years ago, state sales tax relief for cars that get 50 mpg or better." Yes, I said, but it expired — would McKinney lead an effort to reinstate it? "Absolutely," he said. "I'd definitely look at that again." A cash rebate, such as the $2,500 California offers to state electric car buyers, might be a bridge too far for Connecticut right now, but McKinney said it could gain traction if offered for a defined (and probably short) amount of time. "Use it or lose it," McKinney said.


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