I look in the paper and see nothing about sustainability. No solar, no wind, no geo. But great music. That’s the way it is, Dem. or Rep. Why is Duluth so anti progressive?
The Duluth News Tribune published a story two weeks ago about researchers at UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute finding that geothermal heat is closer to the surface and in better supply in Minnesota than previous studies had found.
I think assuming that Duluth is "anti-progressive" because of a lack of articles in our paper is a bit silly. There are many homes being built with geothermal systems and local businesses have divisions dedicated to it (e.g. Summit).
My very own mother is obsessed with energy efficiency in all facets. I think many people would agree that the Tribune isn't always the best gauge of Duluthians (or at least the people I associate with being Duluthian).
All right Frank, you opened the door ... prior to coming to Duluth last year I was a private consultant working on climate change and progressive energy policy. I have been bluntly cautioned to not speak of climate change because of the divisiveness it brings up in Northeast Minnesota.
I use this as an example of non-progressive culture because it is an issue that helps to display how new/progressive concepts can be adapted. One of the Reader's columnist has had a few recent articles about cognitive dissonance, holding on to old positions even in the face of new realities.
Yesterday at a well-attended Duluth Chamber of Commerce event at Clyde I heard how Duluth's economic health is tied to the health of the Iron Range. When the drumbeat is still "Mine it, Move it, Ship it," the concept of resource depletion is a very hard sell. The longer a region firmly holds on to an old economy will only delay the transition to the eventual realization that new vibrant cities are now being built on diversity, technology, and a real world view that allows for current science.
On the other hand there was a packed room last night for a panel discussion about Minnesota Power's new base load generation plans at UMD. I was very encouraged by that group of 40 Duluthians packed into a classroom.
When I first got here the DNT and its army of conservative online commentators got me down. The Reader as a whole was just too disorganized to be a credible media response.
I firmly believe this is an incredible place, but I also believe Duluth's biggest problem in moving forward is the shield it uses to protect itself from the outside.
But Frank, here we are at PDD. Thats a good thing, eh?
Another late night rant. I thought I had that under control. Been doing this same rant for 7 or 8 years now, once a year it seems something snaps. Last year I told myself I wouldn't do it again. I'll try to make this the last one. Can't promise though.
But seeing how I have, I might as well jump in a little deeper. The only relationship this has to do with papers is I don't see a lot of articles of alternative energy projects being completed. I saw the one on geothermal. It's a good thing. I see Ball State college put in a huge system, converted the whole campus to hot water and heating with geothermal. Stuff works. A little history on geothermal. The first system in the world was at Cheudes-Aiques in France in the 14th century. Oldest one in the United States was in Boise Idaho in 1892. So we're catching right up. Little behind, but not to bad.
One more thing and I'll get off this and try never to do this again. We spent close to a half billion dollars on new schools and another 100 million more or less on the DECC. Anybody have any idea on how much of the power consumption is being met by alternative sources? Does anybody know if there's any plan to try one, just one, solar wind powered street light? I'll get off now. It was a stupid post. My apologies.
I do not believe that we - as just ordinary citizens - will be able to figure this out. It would take some detailed academic analysis to discover what the real causes are.
But rants are good, they sometimes bring things.
The main obstacle between us and geothermal or solar is money.
There need to be policies in place that promote it. It is not really clear why we don't have that. Saint Paul just put in some $35,000 solar power hybrid battery chargers for cars. TC also has Hour Cars and other cool stuff.
Look at where we spend our money.
This could get in the weeds very quickly, but money is not the problem, control is. Moving to more clean sources of energy means an acceptance of distributed power, (small generators owned by various business interests) vs. centralized power of huge generating plants only owned and operated by utilities.
It is a very hard concept to understand in depth by design.
But it's not cost. Solar panels in Duluth tomorrow would produce energy cheaper than when the local utilities buy 'off the grid.' A very small program to purchase solar energy from local sources would stimulate huge progressive growth and actually be cheaper than 'peak' purchases of power off the grid.
But it would mean giving up control over a small part of the generation pie and the utilities are concerned about a slippery slope here.
Some places in the world have chosen to concentrate on small individually owned solar. Take Germany for instance . Over half of its installed solar -- 53,000 MW -- are small individually owned. In Australia there are 500,000 homes, with installed roof-top solar. I'm sure big companies don't like that trend.
Frank, maybe we need to start a 'utility' thread. Comparisons to what other countries are doing are interesting, but not really an apples to apples relationship. Our country has a very unique utility industry business plan that sets it apart from most countries on the planet.
We can only be envious of Germany because of the established forces that are in control here, and also because we lack the required political will to change that business plan.
Thomas, I like your idea about a utility thread somewhere. I like PDD because it reaches people, but I don't know if that's their thing, but we have till we run out here, so perhaps we can just give our ideas here. I will try to not make smart ass remarks, no blame, just an idea. You all look at it, tear it apart, fix it if it need be. Here it is.
The electric bill for street lights is a major bill for communities. In Alaska 60 percent of the budget goes to that kind of juice. I can't find what Duluth is, I know my bill is like 3.50 or something like that. It is a noticeable expense over the whole city -- 15 percent or something. This idea will probably bother some people, child labor, unions, socialism, I understand that.
I would have the younger folks in high school research solar street lights, maybe even solar and wind-powered street lights. Find every company building these things and do an analysis. Find them all out, how much they cost compared to how we do it now. Are they cost effective? Could they be? Maybe not now but perhaps with new technology. Find the best one.
And if you want to get really wild, take the industrial arts people and make one. Just one, not a hundred, just one, better work. Put it in the back corner somewhere so it doesn't bother people, see if it work's. Might even be a business there. People are already doing this, so don't worry you won't step on anybody's toes. We are so far behind on the game, they won't even notice.
Hey Frank, you are going to love this -- all about street lights. I have an analysis of what the economic benefit would be to switch out all of one of Duluth's neighborhood streetlight bulbs with LEDs. A local gave it to me after he could not get anyone interested in it.
It makes a lot of sense, numbers don't lie, and maybe you could take the savings and start a fund for clean energy? Want to go on a crusade?
Haven't got the energy needed to drag these folks out of the 1950s.
Yesterday, I became well versed on this subject by interviewing an inside outsider, which is my favorite kind of Duluthian, someone very much in the know and active in school board politics. Basically outlined, (though it doesn't surprise me) the inherent flaws of the public education system here and abroad. That there are evildoers who are top feeders, leeches who skim out of the public education coffers for their own personal gain. Of course this is nothing new, but also made the bold assertion our beloved mayor, and others lack in their taking ons of these tough challenges, too busy crowd surfing, and like Obama, error on the side of middle-of-the-road appeaser, as hope and change simmer on the back burner. And when dealing with fraud, need to become more assertive, and make a few enemies of those who need to become ostracized.
Of course, this is also all too true of many who lead, no one really likes confrontation, everyone loves a centrist, but more than this is required to stop bad apples from making greedy choices for the community. Americans have railroaded each other with terms like Us and Them, Left and Right, Extremist, Centrist, and forget that common sense should rule the day when Greed creeps in all too easily wherever it can gain a foothold, which is often where there is easy public tax money for the taking. Because at the end of the day, many don't have the self control to keep their hands free and clear of the cookie jar without watch dogs to stop them from stealing candy from babies. Something goofy is happening here, but we don't know what it is, do we Mr. Cajones?
Please join us May 2nd as the Northeastern Chapter of the USGBC will be hosting the "Business Case for Sustainability" lunch and learn at the Tech Village Playhouse from 11:30-1:00 p.m.
In July we are conducting a bike tour highlighting a few local buildings that have implemented sustainable design or include sustainable concepts in their business.
A couple other events include:
-Building Green Conference in September
-USGBC Social Event in December
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