TOD:Local needs your contributions...

We need to hear about people's energy and environmental policy ideas, experiences, and solutions at the local and state level so we can compare notes and learn about policy successes and failures, and learn about how to be better participants in the local political process.

That is what we envision with TOD:Local...a place where you can discuss your experiences and and learn about ideas and insights about local solutions.

Something that we've known for a while is that most of the changes that occur in energy policy are going to occur at the state or local level--that's where a lot of the changes that are going to most affect our daily lives are going to take place--whether they are good policy or bad.

Please send your posts or story ideas to the editors box (right sidebar) and I'll forward them to Glenn.

Anyone going to GreenBuild in Chicago, Nov 7-9?

From the link:
"If designing, building, living, and working in green buildings is important to you, you're in good company. Come join 18,000 other people who agree that green building is a good idea and good for business at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Greenbuild 2007 will take place in Chicago at the new McCormick Place West Building."

An interesting article in our local paper ....

Driving under the influence
How the corn lobby bought its way into our gas tanks

Well, I just lost about 45 minutes writing a nice post about some local efforts because of that 'blind link' down below again..

I don't have the time to go compose in some other editor and cut and paste it in here. I really hope there will be some consideration to make the 'Formatting' tag down there either repositioned or limited to its text-area only (Like some non-link text or punctuation after "..options"?).. so my browser Firefox doesn't toss out my post-data just because I think I'm clicking outside the text-entry box so I can then scroll down to find the "Post Comment" link.

I can take full responsibility for clicking on the wrong link, but here, my cursor is nowhere near the 'More Info..' link, and I don't always see that it's lit-up until after the hand has clicked.. please help a non-programmer survive one of the hoary sandpits of the www !

Bob Fiske

A National Sustainability Organization:

I have been wondering for some time about an expansion of a concept which I find really promising, but maybe it already exists. If not, TOD is one of my most frequently visited sites in part because it is not just about conservation/environmentalism, or just about PO, or otherwise confined to only a narrow viewpoint.

A year or so ago, I joined the Oklahoma Sustainability Network. I immediately became aware that other more mature organizations in other states/locales are far more developed as organizations than the OSN. While we have an annual Conference, I have been trying to get the concept of a larger, more accessible venue to reach a lot of people such as exists in MN, WI, and probably in other areas as well. My own interests have led me to become vocal within our organization, but I see a greater need for all of the "local", like statewide, organizations to get together and do something at the national level. Just having OSN's very interesting and intellectual conference, which I couldn't miss and don't want to replace, is not enough. Our recognition of the need for a balance of the sustainability issues is surely not just recognized in a few states, and OK is so conservative that I find it amazing that it is one of the few which I can find when searching the net.

Am I missing something, and is there a broader community organized which can look at the composite of the problems on a larger, I'll say National, scale? If not, are there others interested in getting one going? "We" need to broaden the appeal of the sustainability issue. I'd like to participate.

I certainly think of TOD as being the perfect venue to get something larger started. I am sure that there will be a ton of complaints about sustainability, since the American Lifestyle itself is not sustainable, but there are a lot of alternatives listed throughout the site, and most of the people here seem to recognize that peak oil is not the immediate and absolute end of oil, but a reduction in relative supply, just as global warming does not mean that the earth will suddenly become uninhabitable. For instance, as the people in Atlanta are learning, you can live without green lawns. A lot of recognition of the problems and a lot of discussion of the impacts of both of these issues, and a lot more, are being discussed here already - frequently more than I can readily digest.

I think part of the reason why there is no national coordination is the size of the US, as well as the differences in laws and environmental resource bases between states and cities within those states...coordination is REALLY tough.

That's why starting with a place to share ideas and experiences and information seemed logical. No idea what will come after that.

I know that the State and regional differences do make any effort to establish a national organization different, but there are so many commonalities as well. MN and WI have huge outdoor events with huge crowds, and as I recall have had such events since the late 70's. Our 2007 OSN conference had about 500 attendees at the National Weather Service facility in Norman, OK, was indoors and costs too much for this venue to be a "retail" type event. One track at the conference dealt with energy - conventional and unconventional (manufactured fuels), but the rest could and should have been an environment like the MN and WI events. (I refer to them because I am aware of their size, and know that IL and other states have huge efforts as well, I just don't know any of the details.)

I do appreciate the forum which TOD - Local does and will provide, but the enthusiasm which we can generate from face time cannot be replaced on the net. Passion can run high in any venue, but real excitement, and despair, can be best conveyed in person, and the opportunity for group action could be enhanced with a national organization.

The OSN faithful have started to pay much closer attention and encourage people to speak out, as in our Mercury emissions campaign. Out of about a dozen speakers on Clean Air Mercury rules for OK, seven had ties to one or more of the nine chapters from across the State, but we had no organized effort to get people to the meeting, just let them know when and where. Likewise, I think that the Kansas ruling stopping two (?) coal fired plants on the grounds that CO2 is a pollutant also gives me great hope on the environmental front(Drumbeat, Oct 20).

I really became motivated to action after hearing OU's Dr. David Karoly's presentation on the IPCC report at the OSN conference. In answering one question, he turned the answer to one point I hadn't been aware of, specifically that feedbacks are not considered in the IPCC report findings - hence, the response from Dr. Hansen, which I couldn't understand at the time, of something like "Do we not know enough to say more?" Hansen knew that we did, but it couldn't be covered by the IPCC report since it hadn't occurred and couldn't be "proven". Had it not been for Dr. Karoly's presentation, I wouldn't be consistently ruining the mood at social gatherings, etc. with a sobering attitude on CC.

I'd just like to hear any suggestions expanding on the general public knowledge leading to actual public change vs. each of us faithful doing our personal best to try to improve the planet, or maybe a few doing that, and the rest just needing something to read, what with the high price of books these days.

Great direction to work in!

I have to take your question back to square one, though, and ask whether it's going to be more useful to give such a movement more reach (ie, make it National) or more depth, as in getting it to show some great effectiveness in it's native locale, so a working model can then be copied. We need to (continually) Find the kind of language that hasn't already been translated as 'Kumbaya' by the mainstream, and hence, ignored.. and frame the various steps people could be taking as 'Smart, Frugal and Neighborly' ways to help us become more protected from high costs and wasteful routines. Things like 'Belt Tightening' might play better than 'Sustainability' or 'Conservation', no matter how accurate the latter words may be. As Schindler said, 'It's all Presentation.'

But ultimately, I agree with your premise, and am working to find ways to get neighbors here working together and forming cooperative efforts so that we can save on energy expenses (Heating in Maine could become dire just in the next couple months), as well as starting more folks working together to forge actual relationships with their immediate neighbors, and seeing what we can be doing to make our locales into more connected places again, with all the energy and lifestyle advantages that can grow from that.

Bob Fiske ASPO article 374 "Second Dimension Surface Transport Logistics Platform"

Jim Kunstler's observation -absolute absence of Peaking Oil awareness by Presidential wannabes is a reflection of the state of ignorance of the national media and the blind spot of the reporting class..

There are manifold courses of action individuals, neighborhoods, towns and even county-size assemblies can pursue to extend/conserve energy. Never mentioned in depth is the simple inventory and mapping of abandoned or decrepit railway branchline and former interurban electric system footprint that lurks under the weeds.

Even though much legacy RR line corridor is built on, & fenced over, the simple act of noting the routes will be of great help as the trucking component strains to deal with fuel allocation, and gas rationing causes commuter shock. The fact the rail corridors are known & refreshed in our cognizance, will go a long way toward providing systematic rehab of strategic connectors ASAP. The astute ones in these respective communities will perform advance work on renewable energy links, sort of pre-project design bureaus that help the highway depts. in the crisis, as it is revealed.

Last thought for now is the re-establishment of the railway operating & maintenance battalion cadres in the State National Guard units of the United States- each & every one. This will provide structure to the rehab program, and give the planners concerned with disaster recovery a strong tool for the unexpected, as well as provide strategic coordination for this Oil Interregnum period just ahead. That is, the Guard & Homeland Defense informal oversight can help structure the prioritizing of rehab of rail corridor with things like victuals distribution, warehousing and handing facilities, etc., so critical in orderly recreation of the local rail matrix.

Here is an email I sent this morning to the City of Portland, to explore a CDBG or Community Development Block Grant that is available, and how I would like to see it applied.

Bob Fiske


HCD Program Manager

My wife Leslie Pohl recently learned about the HCD and CDBG programs in a West End Neighborhood Assn meeting, and she thought it would be the right avenue for me to flesh out a proposal developing alternative energy systems integrated into (in this case) the Reiche School facilities. I think the concept offers a number of very positive synergies, but also has its toes in a few different departmental domains, so I'm exploring this very loosely just to examine the political terrain that it would tread upon.

The installation of Solar Electric (also called PV or Photovoltaic), Solar Heating, and possibly Wind Power into one or several of our Schools would serve as a daily demonstration of Alternative Energy to residents, an educational opportunity for students, it would provide a supplemental electricity and heat source for these School Buildings, whose budgets are going to be increasingly exposed to energy costs, and finally, would create an energy-resilient space in the community which can become an emergency center and gathering point in the event of extreme weather or other community needs.

Principally, I see an opportunity to use community infrastructure- the big, barren, usually flat rooftops of our many schoolbuildings, as an ideal location for the people of the Portland to have invested in some energy generating capacity. While Portland rarely suffers blackouts, overall electricity supply and rates in New England are on ever-shakier footing, and as families and communities, we would be wise to develop some degree of our own capacity for supplying essential heating, lighting, communications, etc. It must be noted that while Solar Heat and Solar Electricity DO provide enough power to entirely return their installation costs to the user, usually on the scale of about 10yrs for Heat and 20yrs for Electric ( which is improved by subsidies, of course).. this generating capacity is not going to be large enough to 'power the neighborhood' around it, although a grid-tied electric system would probably be sized so that it _/would/_ be feeding surplus power into the local grid at certain times, certainly during vacations and on weekends. But for Solar Power to work for us as a City or as a Nation, it really needs a broad distribution, where most homes have some panels on them, offsetting the first few kilowatts (or as many as they can afford to install) from every bill, and standing ready as emergency power when the grid fails in a storm, etc.. This installation would be BOTH a functioning energy supply at a critical community center, and it would be an active demonstration and reminder to all its neighbors that we cannot let our energy needs be kept out of sight and managed by others. WE need to take charge, and we really need to be doing it now. (Not a bad slogan.. 'Take charge'..) I included the prospect of using Windpower partly because it is a much more 'active' piece of equipment in drawing peoples' attention to the fact that someone near them is actively involved in harvesting energy instead of buying it from abroad. Solar Panels are great, but they just sit there.

Crude oil hit $89 a barrel last week, and we may well see $100 oil by the end of the year, (it was as low as $9/barrel in 1999. Nine. ) it is clear that our Energy Future is moving, and we must move with it or ahead of it, if at all possible. What better place to teach and learn about new directions than in (and on) our Schools? This also could open doors for more community/family involvement AT the schools, and provide a forum which will encourage activities that can work across class and nationality divisions. To expand on that, my own interests include developing tools and low-tech methods for homeowners in any economic strata to improve their home's energy use, and I would love to see community workshops that would teach other families what can be done to gather some solar heat, insulate and tighten up their existing walls, windows, rooftops. There are numerous aspects of energy efficiency and generation that can and should be taught and practised and improved upon, and I would hope that this project would help create a positive and energetic place where people would be excited about moving into the future with new approaches to Local Gardening, Concentrated Solar Power (CSP, generating heat to turn into electricity), Tide and Wave power experiments, Solar Cooking and Lighting for homes.

Well, that's my notion as it stands so far. I would love to hear your perspective on it, or if you can think of other grants or avenues where this would be a good fit. I have brought it up briefly with Kevin Donohue and Dave Marshall, though we have not explored it in any depth together. I know it would invite some collaboration between the School Department, Community Groups, Adult Ed, and/or Emergency Management.. while I have little understanding of what degree these groups already have relationships or existing programs together.

Thank you for giving this your thoughts,

Robert R. Fiske

CDBG - Community Development Block Grant
HCD - Housing and Community Development
Programs within HUD - Housing and Urban Development