Picture from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-cumbria-27909213
Well, we made it to another Earth Day, and the slide towards a Climate Calamity still continues, barely abated despite all the proclamations to do Something about it by so many, including some Important People. The world has crossed the numerical threshold of 400 ppm CO2 concentrations in the air, an event that was barely acknowledged and is never reinforced by our dominant media forms. What percentage of the American population even knows this factoid, let alone a smattering recognition of what it MEANS? Somehow, a good bet would be in the single to low double figures - slim probabilities exist that even 20% of our fellow countrypeople know that one. By the way, for the week beginning April 12 it was 404.02 ppm; last year, same time it was 401.48 ppm, and a decade ago it was 381.85 ppm. In general, the rate of rise in the CO2 concentrations per year is rising (accelerating) from the ~ 2 ppm/yr (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html) rate of recent times. The whole sorry affair can be seen in movie format, too: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/history.html. Time for the popcorn….
Earth Day as a reflection point on where we are, where we have been and where we are going tends to be a bit of a downer. Well, more than a bit - the term “Heavy Downer” barely even touches it. But then that can lead to a sense of “so we’re doomed - can’t do anything about it, so why are you telling me this stuff, anyway?”. Which is SO incorrect, and yet such a politically correct thing to say. For example, consider this sort of recent news item that actually shows our local electricity and methane distribution monopoly (well, it’s not local, we are) - Iberdrola - in a shining light (http://www.windpoweroffshore.com/article/1319740/west-duddon-sands-completed-early). They are the proud half owners of the “West of Duddon Sands” offshore wind farm near Liverpool in the Irish Sea and it is busy turning out an average of 180 MW from this $US2.4 billion investment. And efforts like this is how we both stop the CO2 pollution that is running havoc with our planet’s (you know, the only one we’ve got) climate control system and create mass quantities of jobs and economic activity (http://www.4coffshore.com/windfarms/west-of-duddon-sands-united-kingdom-uk33.html#)
And yet, when we fix our gaze upon what that monopoly is doing in these parts - well, a polite analogy is milking a cow that is not getting fed enough food. The “best” they can come up with is to throw down $15 million for a yesteryear technology to keep the people, governments and businesses of Tompkins County further addicted to methane imported from elsewhere. Oh well, they do get to squeeze NYSEG customers of a steady $2 million/yr From this investment to make the world a worse place than it already is for as long as the methane flows and people can afford to pay for it, which might be a decade or two. “Pathetic” does not even get to how bad this is, especially compared to the West of Duddon Sands project in environmental, economic and social terms. Maybe the “ask” to Iberdrola is just insufficient - after all, if they become too onerous, too parasitic, why do we even need them? And they are so easily behavior modified via money - if only what passes for political, social and business leadership would grow an appropriate pair…. Oh well, as the guys in BOC were know to say when opening their shows, “On your feet or on your knees!” And then there is the fact that you can’t have a growing economy without investment and economic demand, and having an economy grow elsewhere is, for most of us, just going nowhere at all. Or that if people delegate leading to others, monopolies like Iberdrola will just go for the easy short term money extraction route - it’s kind of built into their corporate nature by now, and it is the default mode when other direction fails to arrive.
So, when Earth Day or 4/20 or whatever you favorite April holiday arrives, and you look for some reason to celebrate other than survival for survival’s sake, try looking in the mirror. Solutions abound that can take us to a better place and fast, but they are not happening around here - instead, a fog of myopia and ignorance like a thick cloud of opium poppy essence seems to dull us into doing so little, and being pretty defensive about it, too. Oh sure, a few chump change examples will get dredged up - great diversions abound, after all. And we can’t do offshore wind around here and place the generation in places where few can see them - instead, we would have to place about 180 big tall turbines in places where some of them could actually be seen by much of the well off power brokers in this region. That’s usually the main problem with commercial scale wind turbines - well, that and the fact that electricity made via the wind is electricity NOT made by burning methane or coal or playing Russian Roulette with nukes. Wind Turbines in the US now allow 1.6 trillion cubic feet of methane consumption to “not occur” - and it did happen, methane prices might be double where they are now, and they would be great joy and profiteering with the “pale capitalists” that we call fossil fuel extractors. And we would have to more or less cooperate, and agree to pay on a long term basis for this investment in electricity generation that never melts down, runs out of fuel or more or less insures some additional energy extortion and further oil and methane based warfare will be cropping up. Those turbines would have an energy payback of less than 9 months, yet they will keep on spinning for around 25 years. And as for the price of that electricity… well, most of it is involved in the price we charge for the money to buy and install them, which is where doing it municipally may be a lower cost route than trying to bribe wealthy corporations via tax avoidance schemes that put the exclamation mark next to the word “clever”. That electricity would be quite affordable and if done right, a big portion of the investment would get plowed back into the county.
Has Iberdrola EVER been asked by Tompkins County’s leaders to do a request for a Power Purchase Agreement to provide us with 90 MW on non-pollution based electricity? And what about for another 40 MW to provide electricity for Ground Sourced Heat Pumps that will allow those who live and do business in the County a prospect of kicking that vile methane and coal and nuke addiction? And if what passes for private industry cannot do what is needed, there is always the ability to collectively use the purchasing power for electricity and heat for good instead of an apathy that accommodates a great evil. An apathy and indifference that insures that the CO2 movie referenced above just gets worse and not better.
Yes, we can do so much better than what is taking place. But so what if what we let happen will bring an endless set of curses from our descendants because we trashed the planet’s good for us climate and all that depends upon it for some short term gain that mostly went to such a tiny portion of us? If we can’t do anything about China’s CO2 pollution (and you CAN - just don’t buy their crap), what about the stuff we are immediately responsible for. And guess what - all you have to lose is the inflated number of unemployed people. Because the cures for CO2 pollution involve more direct job creation and especially middle class manufacturing based jobs that will be replaced - many times. And another by-product is that college grads would face a vastly increased chance of getting an actual; job in their profession, or at least a decent paying job. For a region whose business is largely based on the education biz, that should be important, as you can’t keep on expecting students and their parents to fork over huge sums and don debt servitude ad infinitum with ever diminishing probabilities of escaping that ball and chain. If you want a viable future, it’s time to go renewable, and not just with baby steps. Of course, that assumes people want or even care about a viable future, and the jury on that one still seems to have not decided anything…..