Climate change question over Starbucks drive-through gains media attention

Thursday, June 26, 2008; Posted: 12:06 PM

Jun 26, 2008 (The Wisconsin State Journal – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — — A suggestion from a member of Madison’s Plan Commission involving cars, climate change and a Starbuck’s drive-through ended up combining with Madison’s liberal reputation to create a buzz among some international news channels and bloggers Wednesday.

During a discussion June 16 on whether to OK a Starbuck’s drive-through on East Washington Avenue, Eric Sundquist asked whether concerns about carbon emissions from cars and global warming should be one of the factors the group considers when it approves drive-throughs.

“In that context, I just raised the question if facilities for idling cars were not worth considering,” said Sundquist, a policy analyst with the Center on Wisconsin Strategy who was appointed to the commission in May. “There isn’t any proposal on the table.”

Capital Times business reporter Mike Ivey reported Sundquist’s comments in a column posted in the paper’s Web site Wednesday. A link to the column was added to the Drudge Report — under the headline “Wisconsin city may ban restaurant drive-throughs over global warming concerns” — and next thing Sundquist knew, he was getting calls from Fox News and CNN.

Sundquist is quick to say he never suggested banning drive-throughs — “ban makes it sound like we’re going to shut down every McDonald’s in town,” he said — and the strongest action he can envision is not letting more drive-throughs open up in Madison. More likely, he said, are restrictions on things such as where the drive-through facilities could be located.

If such restrictions do come to pass, it won’t be anytime soon.

Sundquist said he hasn’t really talked in any depth about his idea with city officials, and it’s not yet been formally placed on any city commission’s agenda. He said he will try to get it on the agenda for the next Long Range Transportation Planning Commission, of which he is also a member, but might not be able to if it’s already going to be a busy meeting.

“Something like this has to go through a lot of scrutiny before it become law,” said fellow plan commission member Judy Bowser, who was at the meeting where Sundquist raised his concerns.

Nevertheless, Googling “Eric Sundquist drive throughs” returns no shortage of not-so-nice commentary on Sundquist and the alleged scourge of liberals.

Sundquist said calls came Wednesday from a Rockford, Ill., television station and radio shows in Seattle and Canada. CNN called but lost interest after he explained himself a little more thoroughly, he said, and Fox called too. He plans to do a phone interview with one of the cable channel’s morning shows today — “a live bashing of me,” he speculated.

The commission did recommend approving the Starbuck’s drive-through.

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