A vision of actions
By DICK RISELING
Al Gore gets it. Millions of us get what his movie and book, An Inconvenient Truth, have to say. We just cant live this way anymore. Every week, this summer of 2006 delivers a fresh reminder by floods, terrible heat, increasing oil prices, news of higher rates of asthma and autism, terrible expenditure of life and national income in never-ending wars and obsolete, dangerous and ugly projects like NYRI and Millenium. We never intended this. So, lets get going on solving the problem at the local level.
There is a lot of opportunity. Right now, there is $1,300,000 available for 80 percent subsidy of solar electric (pv) for municipal buildings like our town halls, senior centers, department of highway garages etc. Designs are ready. There is only one problem. We arent sufficiently organized to respond to opportunities that come and go very quickly. Lets solve the problem.
Suggested strategies: 1) advocate for a full-time renewable energy and green building staff person in the County Division of Planning and Economic Development. This position will pay for itself many times over year after year and bring clean renewable energy to your town with substantial ongoing savings; 2) two or three towns could fund a part-time person; 3) hire trained people in a local 501 C-3 not for profit; 4) add an additional solar electric program for home owners and businesses at a guaranteed subsidy of at least 50 percent that is always available; 5) form a village, town or civic group Sustainable Commission to prepare plans and get support from town boards for the next round of NYS financing; 6) do all of the above and add your own strategies as well.
Sullivan County has $500,000,000 of highly profitable wind resource. That is equal to one third of NYRIs transmission capability. Lets generate that electricity here by creating local power authorities. We know where the wind is, how much there is at each site, what the cost and savings will be.
Here are the benefits: 1) all profitsand they are in the millions of dollarsrevert to the local public power authority where they can be dedicated to real-estate tax reduction, school budget enhancement, open space and farmland preservation, increased support for those in greatest need for power and heat or anything else local citizens decide. To be absolutely clear, real estate taxes can be cut in half for every county household and business without exhausting the number of profitable sites for wind generation. If local municipalities or the county do not develop public authorities to capture the synergy of all these benefits, then lets hope some local venture capital holders are paying attention. If not, outside wind developers, already preparing plans for several wind farms in Sullivan County, will use their huge resources to gain control and ship the profits, import staff and raise energy prices.
It is up to us to control our future by taking action at the local level to provide what we want and need. The technology and economics of renewable energy support this local empowerment. Lets stop tolerating highly technical but obsolete energy proposals that exploit us and our magnificent natural environment and be the change we wish to see. Working together, we can implement a renewable energy-based economic development sector in Sullivan County much faster and more easily than most of us realize.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.sasdonline.org, the website of Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development. There you will find a host of information, including the SEED Project, Sullivan Energy and Environment DESIGN, CDs, DVDs, information about renewable energy workshops, speakers who will come to your group and more.
[Dick Riseling is a local farmer and renewable energy advocate.]