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There’s a lot riding (on federal dollars)


Enviro Texas's Anna Lange dishes on fast, clean ways to sustainability.

Greg Harman
gharman@sacurrent.com

Damn Sun. It’s low in the south, making a photo op in front of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center impossible. The small group, members of Environment Texas, Solar San Antonio, and Metropolitan Partnership for Energy, pack themselves together in front of the intersection of Alamo and Market and that great blowing ribbon of steel expressing the solidarity of two nations.

As we swing from Position A (fronting convention center) to the Univision cameraman’s preferred Position B (curbside), Solar San’s Bill Barker barks, “Come on guys, we have to get behind her.”

Then we’re rolling.

Across town, Mr. Pickens was cutting ribbon on the City’s admirable compressed natural gas fueling station was being unveiled. Better yet, where the one of the state’s largest fleet of clean-burning CNG-powered trash trucks is housed.

If I weren’t so picky about the company I choose (leaving me a lonely man most days), or could traverse both roads diverging in those woody woods, I’d be there, too. You may remember, I accused the corporate raider turned water pirate of covering his less-than-lovely tracks and later picked apart his Plan in Drilling Rhetoric.

So, instead, I’m admiring the enthusiasm of another idealistic supporter of clean energy development here on this heavily trafficked city block.

“Texas and the nation can no longer afford the toll dirty energy is taking on our environment,” Anna Lange is saying.

She’s right, of course. And Environment Texas has a prescription for priming the pump of clean energy through the breathlessly anticipated Obama stimulus package.

From their summary (soon to be online here, I’m thinking):

Our reliance on dirty energy is fueling global warming, harming our health, threatening our security and stalling our economy. Burning coal, oil and gas for energy and transportation is responsible for 80 percent of U.S. global warming pollution and most of our smog and soot pollution.

We can protect our environment and strengthen our economy by investing in clean energy and green infrastructure. A green economic recovery plan would mean less global warming pollution, fewer asthma attacks from air pollution, more clean lakes and rivers for drinking water, swimming and fishing, more secure energy in the long term, and more jobs than investing in the dirty energy technologies of the past.

President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make clean energy and green infrastructure a cornerstone of America’s economic recovery. In his first radio address of 2009, the president-elect said "to put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will double renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.”

San Antonio leaders are hard at work putting the finishing touches on their stimulus request now. Concurrently, San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger has a lot of (admittedly) late-coming, but eco-sensical stuff he wants to see the city tackle in the near future: city-spanning efficiency retrofits, in-fill development along the San Antonio River, and the Holy Grail of public transport, light rail.

Unfortunately, these green dreams — the big stuff, anyway — aren’t part of the city’s list of projects being used to hunt down stimulus project cash from the incoming Obama Admin. They’re timed for visionary release as part of Mission Verde, to be announced during the State of the City address in two week. (Catch our forecast, ‘Mission Verde’ possible.)

In one of his weirder columns, SA Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra sought to take the city to task for not rolling Mission Verde efforts into the stimulus list. That was my read, anyway. Green-list preppers defend themselves, saying those stimulus items must be able to be completed in two years to qualify. Light rail — true, by our own lack of readiness, perhaps, and the enormity of the undertaking, for certain — doesn’t qualify.

Guerra also faulted the city for planning solar atop the convention center behind us (???) and for not pushing enough tree planting measures. So, I am challenged by this usually reliable voice for social improvements to read the City’s stimulus list.

First one: $50 million for native habitat restoration and bike trails (including 6,600 trees to be planted) from Mission Concepcion to Mission San Jose.

Farther down: $78.8 million in parks improvements.

Yes. It’s not perfect. But you have to give the City props for these items and more, including:

* $7 million for 150 miles of bike lanes

* $30 million for timing traffic lights and switching to energy efficient bulbs

* $27 million for environmental projects like solar-topping the convention center and airport

* $5 million tree-planting campaign

* and another CNG fuel station.

Yeah, (again) it is just a wish list. But it's a wish list with a healthy shake of green num-nums in it.

Out on the street, the lone cameraman has gone, and the remnant of eco rabble is splitting off into orbiting conversations. Bottom line: Expect Environment Texas to stick around for a while pushing this plan. Initial forays are promising, but most folks I know are still digesting it. But it would be great to send a message to Washington that South Texas wants the green projects (and job skills) of the future, today.

Drop a line on the Mayor and ask him to read it, if you take to it (after it's popped online).

Ah, blessed Sun. It’s low in the south, helping stabilize winter temps somewhere between 80 and 30 degrees here in San Anto. Our little press skirmish is breaking up ...

Posted by gharman on 1/14/2009 1:50:31 PM
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