Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Renewable Renaissance

The lifeblood of our civilization today is energy. New innovations in energy technology are arising faster than we can keep up with them. Many of these developments have the potential to enhance our quality of life by dismantling the current infrastructure of corporate dependence that holds us as captives, contributing to a cleaner environment, and by creating high tech and green collar jobs that can’t be outsourced, while others will become obsolete and burdensome soon after being implemented. The city has been looking into waste gasification and nuclear power as potential revenue generating ventures and I think it is important to bear in mind that these are not clean, renewable resources and that there are many more options available that are safer, more equitable and beneficial to our local economy while also being more attractive to potential future residents.

There is an energy renaissance underway in this country, right now. Towns and cities are realizing that they can reap more of the profits and better insure accountability when local people take the initiative, work together to make solid long term investments, and start up these energy projects independently. Aggregate community owned and operated wind farms and biorefineries are up and running, there are models for compact and discrete rooftop turbines that can help power homes and commercial businesses relatively cheaply, municipalities are opting to utilize solar panels, designing new buildings with sustainability in mind and providing tax incentives for the public to do the same, and fuel is being created from landfill gas and grass and woodchips. With all the amazing potential we have right here dormant around us, is it really in our best interest to invite a Japanese company to come in and build a nuclear power plant or to haul in tons of garbage from other towns to be incinerated?

There is talk of plant to be built in San Angelo that will process mesquite to produce energy. I think that a project like this would be most beneficial if it did not simply use combustion to supply power for “the grid.” If we began to look at mesquite as a source of diverse products that would require companion enterprises, we could really begin to diversify employment options for locals and strengthen our local economy. Mesquite has the potential to produce liquid fuel that could be purchased in our community for automobiles, or fine lumber for floors and cabinets, or pellets for efficiently heating homes and schools and businesses, mesquite bean meal sells on the internet for $13 a pound and it is actually a quite delicious, nutritious and helps to regulate blood sugar. We are selling ourselves short to simply allow someone funded by the DOE to come in and harvest our resources so that they can sell it by the kilowatt to someone in Dallas or Ohio.

Around the country public libraries are being powered with solar energy, high school students are designing systems and installing solar arrays in their schools as science projects, small locally owned and operated cooperative wind farms are in operation using discrete designs, native prairie plant species are being harvested to produce energy while improving the soil, surface and groundwaters and sequestering carbon dioxide… This all barely scratches the surface.

I asked the city council on Tuesday to investigate all the options, let the public be involved in the renaissance, let us know what they are doing and planning so we can tell them what we think about it. There are so many changes happening in our world today, that it has never been more crucial that we pay attention and thoroughly research, and the more of us that are involved, the more effectively that can be accomplished.

There is no better way to market San Angelo in this day and time, than to become a real model for sustainability by implementing recycling programs, fostering conservation of land and energy, and by creating commerce from the renewable resources indigenous to this area. I can confidently say that the solutions to our energy needs in the future will be regional. Not large power plants, and massive transmission lines, but homes and offices and cities on closed loop systems producing their own power. There is not anyone in our community who will not benefit from initiating the creation of a whole new network of commerce in our community that raises awareness, increases capital expenditures, helps us to meet state and federal mandates, stimulates the local economy, fosters energy independence, and nurtures the environment, which is our true life blood.

The future of energy is promising and exciting. We are shedding paradigms of oppression disguised as Convenience. It's really just a matter how far ahead or behind we want our community to be.

Imagine... instead of investing $100,000,000 in a plant that will incinerate trash to sell power to the grid, we invest in mesquite ethanol plants, at $8,000,000 a pop. Each plant would create 30+ jobs, and we could support a dozen or more of these, because the plants must be small in order to make the transport of material feasible. We would be helping farmers and ranchers, creating lots of jobs, producing our own fuel locally, improving our existing water suppy, increasing our economic INDEPENDENCE, and... we could invest the money that is saved from diverting investment funds away from losers like gasification and nuclear power in urban rooftop verticle axis wind turbines and solar parking canopies, making rooftops and parking lots in San Angelo components of a collective renewable power plant where, potentially, we can all be shareholders.

For anyone interested in learning more, you can start here:

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