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Is California Sacrificing Green for Green?

In hindsight, the cover line of Fast Company‘s “The Fast 50” issue (March) says it all. California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Green Ultimatum Will Create Huge New Markets Across California”. Key word: across

In hindsight, the cover line of Fast Company‘s “The Fast 50” issue (March) says it all. California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Green Ultimatum Will Create Huge New Markets Across California”.

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Key word: across

California is fast-tracking several big alternative-energy projects in the southernmost quarter of the state costing $4 billion. A proposal to build power lines, substations, and transmission towers through a national forest, two wildlife preserves, and a rural village used in TV and cinema westerns has provoked the ire of environmental groups even as authorities say no final decisions have been made, reports The Christian Science Monitor:

“We wish we could generate more renewable power closer to where it is needed,” says Sean Gallagher, energy division director for the California Public Utilities Commission. “But renewables are located where they are, and getting the power to where it is needed is no free lunch. People on both sides are realizing more and more that responsibility for the planet requires sacrifices by those on all sides.”

Much of Los Angeles is surrounded by national forest and some of the existing transmission corridors are not wide enough to accommodate the new lines, says Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Commission president David Nahai. [It is] … a ‘greater-good issue,’ which means the society and the city have to balance all the advantages and disadvantages to make the aggressive step to move away from the filthiest of fuels, which is coal,” he says.

The California model shows that when governments lead the way in creating ‘green’ energy markets they do so by insuring and maintaining a consumption standard that their citizens have come to expect at a price they can afford. But what if that standard is just too high? I would argue that sacrificing what remains of pristine wilderness and the sanctity of our public lands is a cost that is approaching “just too high”–especially when alternatives to that sacrifice can be found.

Green has taken on a whole new meaning in the last year. It used to convey values of preservation, naturalism–less is more. Today it essentially means ecologically responsible consumption (without clearly defining responsible or limiting consumption). California has an opportunity to merge these two value systems into one true green.

Here’s a modest proposal for turning California’s clean energy into ‘green’ energy: The state should mandate that energy generated from renewable sources have the right-of-way through the thousands of miles of existing transmission lines. These existing corridors criss-cross the state and feed the coastal cities energy from coal plants (located as far away as Nevada and Utah). What better way to kill coal and inspire the growth of renewable energy than to cut off coal’s access to the consumer?

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At the same time, the (at least initial) de facto cap of energy consumption at the levels existing transmission lines allow will accelerate energy saving innovations in the products that Californians (ergo, Americans) insist are necessary for everyday life–from lighting, to air conditioning, to pool pumps.

Eventually, to supplement the limited supply of energy available, urban energy development will expand at a quicker pace. The California Solar Initiative is currently spending $2.5 billion over the next decade to generate 3,000 megawatts from urban rooftops. Investment in and megawatt output from those types of systems would increase exponentially if the amount of energy pumped into the cities were limited.

“People say, ‘You can’t get everything done,” Arnold told Fast Company. “But the only way to know if you can lift 500 pounds is if you put 500 pounds on the bar.”

Maybe it’s time to pump it up to 1,000 pounds, Arnold.

The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.

–Arnold on bodybuilding…and environmentalism?

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