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In Kansas, Climate Skeptics Embrace Cleaner Energy

Leslie Kaufman, New York Times
SALINA, Kan. — Residents of this deeply conservative city do not put much stock in scientific predictions of climate change.

“Don’t mention global warming,” warned Nancy Jackson, chairwoman of the Climate and Energy Project, a small nonprofit group that aims to get people to rein in the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change. “And don’t mention Al Gore. People out here just hate him.”

Saving energy, though, is another matter.

Last Halloween, schoolchildren here searched for “vampire” electric loads, or appliances that sap energy even when they seem to be off. Energy-efficient LED lights twinkled on the town’s Christmas tree. On Valentine’s Day, local restaurants left their dining room lights off and served meals by candlelight.

The fever for reducing dependence on fossil fuels has spread beyond this city of red-brick Eisenhower-era buildings to other towns on the Kansas plains.

… Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics.

Attempts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gases are highly unpopular here because of opposition to large-scale government intervention. Some are skeptical that humans might fundamentally alter a world that was created by God.

If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, Ms. Jackson and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.
(18 October 2010)
Recommended by Asher Miller of Post Carbon Institute.

Uttering the “C” Word

Asher Miller, Huffington Post
I was intrigued to learn that authors from three politically disparate think tanks–American Enterprise Institute, Brookings, and Breakthrough Institute–had recently published a report on how to foster deployment of clean energy technology. For those of you who don’t know, AEI’s most well-known in energy/climate circles for receiving millions of dollars from the oil industry to foment doubt about anthropogenic global warming. So it’s interesting to see someone from AEI as a co-author of this report.

… Like the ill-fated American Power Act, this report makes some good recommendations but utterly fails to offer anything that promises to transcend political partisanship or transform the energy landscape with the speed and scale required.

… Most worrying (though least surprising) is the authors’ belief that clean energy innovation breakthroughs can drive continued economic growth. This belief reflects two commonly held assumptions:

  1. That alternative energy sources capable of replacing conventional fossil fuels either already exist or can be invented. All that’s missing are incentives for innovation and/or the political will.

  2. That exponential growth of the global economy–fundamentally driven by ever-growing consumption of energy and other natural resources–can and should continue indefinitely. Never mind the little fact that we live on a finite planet.

… I want to throw out a word that didn’t show up once in the Post-Partisan Power report: Conservation.

… Conservation is not something most environmental think-tanks or NGOs (not to mention the likes of American Enterprise Institute) want to discuss, but I dare say it will have a much bigger role in our energy future than “innovative, small-scale nuclear reactors.”

For those who want to cast this conclusion as “doomish” or think that I’m somehow underestimating our capacity to innovate, let me be clear: Clean energy innovation should absolutely receive investment. But am I the only one who thinks it’s crazy to bet the fate of our species and the planet entirely on a technological miracle? It may be easier to hope that technology will save us, but it will not actually be easier to do.

Asher Miller is Executive Director, Post Carbon Institute.
(23 October 2010)

Oil Sands Effort Turns on a Fight Over a Road

Tom Zeller Jr., New York Times
… to Mr. Laughy’s dismay, international oil companies see this meandering, backcountry route as a road to riches. They are angling to use U.S. 12 to ship gargantuan loads of equipment from Vancouver, Wash., to Montana and the tar sands of Alberta in Canada. The companies say the route would save time and money and provide a vital economic boost to Montana and Idaho.

The problem, said Mr. Laughy, is that the proposed loads are so large — and would travel so slowly — that they would literally block the highway as they rolled through. According to plans submitted to state regulators, some of the shipments would weigh more than 600,000 pounds, stand as tall as a three-story building, stretch nearly two-thirds the length of a football field and occupy 24 feet side-to-side — the full width of U.S. 12’s two lanes for much of its course through Idaho.

Mr. Laughy and his wife, Borg Hendrickson, have sued the state to stop the shipments by Imperial Oil and ConocoPhillips, arguing that the loads would threaten the integrity of Idaho’s historic portion of U.S. 12, as well as the safety of communities that depend on it as the main road in and out of the area. ,
(21 October 2010)

Lundberg v. Lundberg, Santa Barbara

Jan Lundberg, Culture Change
The Wrongful Death of an Oil Guru’s Widow

From 1972-1986 I worked in a family business serving the oil industry and government, known as Lundberg Survey. In 1988 I changed careers to join the environmental movement full time. After leaving the family business and moving to the other side of the U.S., terrible events in the family involving the courts took place despite my having left — not just leaving the oil analysis business but entering the nonprofit sector to stay.
(14 September 2010)
Jan Lundberg has been active in peak oil and environmental activism for many years. He writes:

I’s not a pleasant article, but neither was David and Goliath a pleasant story — except for when the underdog won. Lundberg v. Trilby Lundberg et al is not a Transition Towns piece or China oil demand piece, but it is in a sense a “what you can do,” because resistance must sometimes be waged in one’s personal life, in activism, and to create a society that makes us secure and not victims. Culture Change got its name from two observations: the paving of the good earth, and the way my family mostly disintegrated due to greed. Multi-level change needed.