Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coming Out

When I decided to start a blog, I chose to stay anonymous. There was no really good reason for this. Perhaps I was worried of blow back of some sort, but anyone who wanted to figure out who I was could probably piece together the information from the posts. Such an act would be diabolical, but nonetheless possible, I suppose.

Last week (Tuesday, November 6, 2007 to be exact), I was elected to local government. Because I was not well known in my hometown, Westport, CT, I gave people my blog address, so they could get a sense of my style and thought processes and to see what I've been up to with respect to moving towards energy sustainability. Some visited the blog, and I've heard some feedback, mainly that I need to update it more. That, I cannot argue with. At any rate, there is no reason to be anonymous any more, and hence the title of this post.

Since the start, we've worked on moving to a more sustainable energy use with modest success. The approach is different and less intense (although more capital intensive) than what you can find elsewhere on the web. Many people are a lot more hard-core than we are. An example of really hard-core is No Impact Man, a NYC resident trying to make no net impact on the environment. Another approach can be found at the blog of Sharon Astyk. Sharon is a New York state Jewish farmer working towards sustainability. Her primary motivations are peak oil and global warming, and her style is a bit more palatable than No Impact Man's, even though she's advocating, among other things, a 90% reduction in carbon emissions.

Locally, here in Westport, there are efforts going on. The Green Energy Task Force was initiated by Gordon Joseloff, our local First Selectman (basically, our Mayor), and under the leadership of Carl Leaman, they have estimated the town's carbon footprint and are working on recommendations on how to reduce that. The goal is nowhere near a 90% reduction, and if you are to believe the climate models, something near 90% will be needed. The Task Force's start is a reasonable one, and with time, I could easily see that it could get to advocating more drastic reductions.

As for me, I am still of the opinion that the most important problem is the geopolitics of oil: who has it, who doesn't, and the consequences of this relationship. We are working first to lessen our exposure to foreign energy sources in a way that is (hopefully) environmentally friendlier and that is more economical than what we have been doing traditionally. I've been working on this every since Hurricane Katrina, for that really opened up my eyes on the possibility and consequences of a major supply shock.

Listening to the news chatter, some seem convinced that the run-up in oil prices is a result of those pesky speculators. My response to that is that the speculators go to where the action is, and they wouldn't be in oil if there wasn't a supply/demand mismatch problem, and there is definitely a supply/demand mismatch problem, and it looks like it won't get better any time soon. We are talking years for it to work out at best, and if the peak oil people are right, it will never work out.

We've heard the refrain before, and so one has to ask what is different this time. The answer is that in the 1970s, we imported roughly 20% of our oil whereas now we generate 20% and import 80%. In addition, our position as a country has moved from being the world's largest creditor nation to the world's largest debtor nation. With our trade imbalance and our declining dollar, we may not have seen the last of the oil price rises. To stop that we will need to experience a global slowdown and not just one that is national. The increased demand from China and India is real and is the primary driver of increased oil use. Any reduction from US demand can be quickly replaced by increased consumption elsewhere.

At any rate, I'll be advocating locally for efforts to reduce our oil use first and foremost and doing it in a way that helps the environment, reduces our carbon footprint, and saves us money in the long run. That is the goal, but the energy complex is complicated. We'll see if we can get there. I'll also be commenting more on energy use in CT and in Westport and Fairfield County in particular. At least that is the goal I have. Can I get to 1 post a week? I'll certainly try.

Our personal efforts are not yet complete. Once you start on this project, you get quickly overwhelmed by the numbers involved, and we have a long, long way to go to get to where we feel comfortable with our personal vulnerability to energy risk.

Finally, a thank you to all those who voted for me. Town Representatives are elected at 4 per district, and there were 7 vying for 4 places in our District. The town turnout was 35.3% of the electorate and 37.8% in District 9. In District 9, 43.8% of the voters voted for me. It was enough to get me the 4th slot, but it only represents 16.6% of the electorate.

Kevin D. Green
Westport Town Representative-Elect
District 9


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