5) Wind Energy
Like solar, we have an unending supply of wind. A National Geographic article said America’s Great Plains states are the “Saudi Arabia of wind.”
Our administration would support the creation of as many wind turbine projects as possible to tap into this clean, renewable energy source.
We would look to help start projects similar to the Weatherford Wind Energy Center Project in Weatherford, Oklahoma. On a stop here, we learned the project, when completed (a lot of turbines were already up), will encompass as many as 98, 1.5 mega-watt wind turbines, covering more than 5,000 acres of Custer County. The power is sold to the Public Service Company of Oklahoma.
And when these Oklahoma turbines are operating at peak capacity, they produce enough electricity to power more than 40,000 homes, according to Wind Power Trail literature. (Not to mention with our Kyoto Protocol Home Zone plan, that same amount of electricity may power 80,000 homes, or more.)
This literature also notes that a single wind turbine’s environmental benefits are equivalent to planting one square mile of forest each year. And, wind energy could produce more than twice the total amount of energy currently generated from all sources in America.
I told a reporter from a radio station in the Weatherford area that our administration would promote wind farms similar to the one in Custer County – everywhere the wind blows in America.
Also in the Great Plains, on the outskirts of Mandan, North Dakota, we interviewed Mark Dagley. He put up four, relatively small “Whisper 900” series wind turbines on his barn roof several years ago. Dagley told me with wind at 28 mph, one of his turbines will generate 900 watts of electricity. He said his energy consumption on the farm, including in his rather large farmhouse was cut in half.
In North Dakota, we also learned that the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, shows North Dakota to have the best wind potential of any of the lower 48 states.
Our administration would use this kind of data to determine which 15 states in the U.S. had the best “wind potential.” Then we would set up a program to inspire (offering tax incentives, etc.) “Plant a Row of Wind Turbines” initiatives on farms and on other open areas in these states.
At an “Alternative Energy Fair" in Custer, Wisconsin, John Hippensteel, owner of the Lake Michigan Wind & Sun Co., told me wind-generated energy is now growing by 25% worldwide every year. In America, our administration would push to multiply that 50 times.
6) Subsidizing the Shift
As I’ve mentioned, we would propose that the federal government provide a series of incentives to farmers, businesses, and residents who wanted to put up solar panels or wind turbines.
To supplement this, our administration would point to Atwood, Kansas (pop. 1,500).
On a stop in Atwood, we learned about the Second Century Fund, which was started by two local bankers who initially kicked in $10,000 a piece. The idea was to both grow the fund and help seed things that were beneficial to the community. And it worked, in a big way.
People started donating to the fund out of a sense of civic responsibility. People left money to the fund in their wills. They did it because they wanted to leave the town better for their children.
Within 10 years, the fund had grown to a phenomenal $932,000. And again, Atwood’s population is a mere 1,500.
A board was set up to disperse the money from the fund to all kinds of benevolent causes around town, including the city park, the Atwood Arts Council, Atwood Chamber of Commerce, The Good Samaritan Center, The Rotary Club… The year we were there, some $71,000 went to local projects. And the $71,000 was merely the interest on the fund that year.
It occurs to us, a common sense idea would be to add an “environmental” category to the list of “benevolent” causes in Atwood, or any community, to help low-income people with some of the cost of the solar panels or wind turbines. (Local people helping local people – for the common good.)
Note: In metropolitan areas we propose “Go Zones” similar to ones we researched in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita is divided into 15 block areas with Neighborhood Associations. In effect, the city is subdivided into small towns. And with this model, you could incorporate Second Century Funds for each of these Go Zone communities.
7) Water Power
Wave action is endless. On a stop in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, we learned that a $4 million dollar pilot project is being proposed there to turn ocean waves into electricity. The area’s Journal Tribune newspaper carried an AP report that said in the pilot phase of the project, the wave energy plant would power 500 homes.
And our administration would try to encourage as much research and development around this clean, renewable energy resource as well.
Another way to utilize water is through geothermal applications. In Ohio and Michigan, we researched geothermal methods of heating and cooling a home. In Florida, Ohio, the geothermal system consisted of a series of pipes that run below the flooring and into the ground outside. Water is pumped through these. The homeowner, Steve Batt, told me in the winter the groundwater is warmer than the outside air temperature and the heat is drawn from it to warm the house. In the summer, it’s the reverse.
On a stop in Houghton, Michigan, David Bach showed us his geothermal system involves tubing running from his hot water heater and snaking below smooth, painted concrete floors. This, in turn, heats the home quite adequately – with much less energy. Bach said with this system he averages a monthly winter heating bill, in the rather frigid Upper Peninsula, of $17.
At the end of the interview with Bach, he said: “We need a U.S. Energy Plan based on sustainability.” Our administration agrees, and would do everything possible to help bring that about.
8) Alternative Transportation
Motor vehicle emissions are causing a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas.
Our platform is simple when it comes to this. We would push to cut motor vehicle emissions dramatically.
And we would start by trying to inspire a tremendous tax increase on gasoline. I told a reporter at the Cortez Journal in Cortez, Colorado, that mounting gas prices are a “good thing” for America. That is, it will force some Americans to cut back on their driving.
Our administration would push to set up expensive tolls on the Federal Highway Systems and ask states to consider the same on their major arteries throughout each state. This would do two things. It would significantly curtail long-distance driving, and in turn, it would curtail the emission of global warming gases. And two, some of the tolls could be put into funds (on both a state and federal level, to encourage more alternative energy projects.)
And to connect towns, besides the current National Highway System, our administration would line up behind Santa Cruz, California’s Martin Krieg. On a stop in Santa Cruz, we interviewed Krieg, who is the founder of a movement to get a “National Bike Trail System.”
And we could have used this during Election 2000, when our family did a three-month, 2,000-mile campaign tour leg through the Midwest on bicycles.
When a reporter from the Spring Valley (WI) News asked my wife Liz: Why bicycles? Liz replied: “We believe this country should get back to the basics, get out of the fast lane, and slow down. So what better way to do this campaigning than on a slower form of transportation?”
And as this entire transportation shift started to occur, we’d try to encourage much more walking and bicycling in local towns. And common sense says the more walking and bicycling friendly a town is, the more people will walk and bicycle.
To this end, we would point to Dan Burden’s “Walkable Community Model.” (Time Magazine has called Burden one of the top environmentalists in the country.) While we were on a stop in High Springs, Florida, to meet with Burden, he explained his model is designed to show towns how to significantly decrease speed limits, increase the size of walking and bicycling corridors, locate senior living facilities above downtown mercantile sections, create diagonal paths to cut distances from the periphery to center of town… (We have touted Walkable Communities in talks, and in media, all over the country with the hopes of planting seeds about Burden’s model now.)
And as speed limits slow, the roads will also become much friendlier for slower, alternative vehicles. Vehicles like Walter O’Dell’s GEM, mini-flatbed electric pick-up truck. We interviewed O’Dell in Mt. Vernon, Ohio.
He told me he bought the truck new for $9,500 and his first 800 miles had cost him a mere $11 in electricity. What’s more, four other people in town had bought similar electric pick-ups since O’Dell purchased his.
At a stop in Fairfield Beach, Ohio (pop. 500), we learned that no license is required to drive a golf cart (most of them are electric) on the streets here and at least 40 golf carts can be regularly seen about town – going at a much slower and saner rate of speed.
Our administration would also push for more incentives for research and development of all sorts of alternative vehicle technology.
For instance, (as mentioned earlier) we went to Bowling Green, Ohio, to meet with Bowling Green State University’s Jon Opperman. He is involved with BGSU’s Alternative Vehicle Department. Helped by a NASA grant, this department has developed a “hybrid bus” that has been put into use as a shuttle bus around campus. The friction from the bus’s frequent breaking action is transferred into energy to help power the bus. I told the Bowling Green Sentinel Tribune newspaper that there should be a lot more grants for these types of projects all across the country.
In addition, we would propose offering cities matching grants to set up downtown charging stations for electric vehicles, like they have in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Another thing our administration would promote is more bio-diesel fuel applications. In Durango, Colorado, we learned about a new bio-diesel fuel made of soybean and canola oil, which can be mixed in with gasoline and doesn’t require engine modification to use.
Also, while traveling through Nebraska, we learned this state now has 11 operating ethanol plants and plans for a dozen more.
And again, our administration would push for the development of more of these plants in corn producing states all over the country. (What’s more, in rural Bluffton, Ohio, I interviewed Ray Person who has installed a non-polluting, efficient corn burning stove to heat his farmhouse.)
Our administration would also push for incentives for growing perhaps the best biomass fuel around: switch grass. (Switch grass is a plant native to North America’s prairies. It grows faster and needs less fertilizer than corn. And it grows on land unfit for other crops.”)
We see the switch to more hybrid technology, biomass fuels, the improvement of solar and electric vehicles, etc. as merely interim steps on the way back to a “decentralized society.”
That is, our increased mobility has opened the door to centralism, virtually unchecked urban sprawl, massive amounts of highway deaths (33,000 a year in America) and maiming, and the tearing apart of community.
In tiny Sea Level on the east coast of North Carolina, we met with James Styron, 61. He told me the “sense of community” here isn’t anywhere like it used to be.
Styron said he spent his whole life in this town. He grew up around a cluster of small oyster factories, a grocery, a couple restaurants, and a general store where the town kids listened to the “old guys” talk over checkers around a pot belly stove. People were close.
Styron said his granddaddy was one of the first in Sea Level to own a Model T., the first affordable car for the ‘average Joe’ in America. The grandfather started driving a bit out of Sea Level, then a bit more, as were others now. Bigger stores went up, in more “central locations” [read: centralism], with cheaper prices.
What’s left of downtown Sea Level where everyone in town used to meet, talk, shop? Nothing. There are no stores and the ‘old guys’ have been replaced with TV characters.
“I’d like for it to be like it used to be,” said Styron, who seemed confused about how that could happen again.
Our administration wouldn’t be confused, and we would promote a “Decentralism Campaign” to help people connect the dots between this increased mobility and the demise of community in the country.
We would encourage downtown revitalization projects nationwide. At a stop in Plattsville, Wisconsin (pop. 9,983), we researched their “Main Street Restoration Project.” Main Street Commission President Bob Metzger told me an exciting downtown transformation is happening here, one business at a time. He said one twist is some shop owners, like in the old days, are renovating their shops “and moving in upstairs lofts. “Downtown becomes their ‘front yard,’ said Metzger, who added these owners are then much more apt to push for downtown improvements.
And promote education programs for people to understand why it’s vital to “buy locally,” moving away from patronizing big box retailers (like Walmart, KMart…). We would point to towns like Yellow Springs, Ohio, as a model.
On a stop in Yellow Springs, we learned the citizens here effectively fought a move to start to locate franchised chains on the town periphery because they wanted to maintain the small business integrity of their downtown. This included referendums; the paper was deluged with letters to the editor, and “No Sprawl” yard signs started going up all over town.
Yellow Springs also has the non-profit agency Community Services Inc. In an interview with agency director Marianne MacQueen, she told me her group regularly sponsors seminars on why it’s important to buy locally, including initiatives to help local businesses. (When a local, family owned grocery was in trouble, Community Services organized a night for the grocer to tell the town about his problems. As a result, a petition was circulated in the throughout Yellow Springs, with town people pledging to buy at his store.)
As we move back into this local paradigm, more jobs are created locally, we naturally move back into more of a “life giving” agrarian base, with more people growing food, people are able to walk, bicycle, and buggy to most locations. And not only do we grow closer again in community, but we have cut down on pollution exponentially.
At a stop in Mt. Hope, Ohio, (pop. 2,000) we observed this decentralized dynamic in living color, so to speak. Mt. Hope is an Amish community, with a downtown general store, a hardware, cloth store for making clothes, a shoe shop, a grocery, a health food store… Then interspersed throughout the community are woodworking shops, buggy repair shops, leather and saddle shops. And in a circular radius around town are farms where some of the local farmers grow for local people. For instance, some of the produce, eggs, and milk are sold at an auction and Farmer’s Market every Wednesday in town. To get to all these locations, the Amish, for the most part, buggy, walk or bicycle.
The community interdependence is palpable. And because of an emphasis on things being done locally and the use of slower non-polluting forms of transportation, the environmental stewardship of the Amish is at a very high level.
We would all do well to learn much more from the Amish when it comes to environmental stewardship, and decentralism, I told the Wooster (OH) Daily News.
Note: For a more comprehensive look at the issues I describe above, and more, see our: “Energy Policy” position paper.
10) Reforesting America, One Tree at a Time
Living in America, we are living amidst one of the biggest clear cuts in the history of the world. And trees continue to be a tremendously big issue in the country.
First off, and to stay with the global warming theme, trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are, in effect, natural scrubbers for our global warming gas emissions.
Our administration would promote the growth of many more trees and also try to help preserve the existing trees – at almost every turn. Starting with the “old growth” forests.
In Brookings, Oregon, I interviewed Mick Breenan, who is a “forestry technician” with the U.S. Forest Service. He said old growth forests are extremely important to many endangered species. His proposal is to stop cutting trees altogether in the old growth federal forests.
Instead, Breenan proposes incentives for more farmers to start: tree farms. Besides the ecological benefits of saving the old growth forests and establishing more trees nationwide, Breenan said this plan would also free up many “forestry technicians” like him to do more meaningful things.
Right now, one of these forestry technicians’ main jobs is monitoring the species being affected by cutting in the old growth forests. If you stopped cutting in the old growth forests, there’d be no need to count, period.
Brookings Pilot newspaper staff writer William Lundquist noted that I hoped to build a following of constituents with common sense philosophy. And these old growth forest and tree farm initiatives seem to make a lot of sense to us, common sense.
Another idea that makes a lot of sense, we think, is the establishment of many more “Tree City USA” towns. Tree City USA is a federal program that could easily be transitioned into a state or local program.
To be a Tree City USA member, a town must have: a tree board; a tree ordinance; an operating budget of $2 per person in the town; and have some sort of Arbor Day observance.
In Bluffton, Ohio, I interviewed Jon Sommers who said the previous year on Arbor Day, the Bluffton Tree Board mustered a group of community volunteers to plant 500 ash trees. Sommers pointed out that besides trees absorbing carbon dioxide, they provide homes with wind breaks in the winter and natural shade in the summer, both of which helps cut down on energy use.
Going several steps beyond Tree City USA, Nebraska City, Nebraska (birthplace of Arbor Day) is one of “10 Living Laboratory Projects” which are models for urban forestry. On a stop here, we interviewed Arbor Day Farm manager Chris Aden. He said in its attempt to reforest, this town of 6,500 people is planting 10,000 trees over a 10-year period. (This even includes tearing up concrete and asphalt in some places around town to plant trees.)
Our administration would urge towns across America to consider the same.
11) Healthy Forestry, at Nature’s Pace
Going back to forests, it’s inevitable that some logging will continue. And we went to Cottonwood, Idaho to interview one of the top “environmental loggers” (her term) in the country. Sr. Carol Ann Wassmuth is the “forest manager” for some 1,400 acres at the Monastery of St. Gertrude, and she regularly gives talks about forest management.
She refers to her work as “the spirituality of forestry.”
St. Gertrude Monastery engages in “selective logging.” That is, they take out the defective trees to make the forest healthier. And as those trees come out, new seedlings are planted.
In addition, as healthy trees come out, new trees are planted as well.
A forest should be sustainable. Sr. Carol Ann said the water, wildlife habitat and underbrush should all be continually protected. The philosophy is just the opposite of the “cut and run” philosophy in play in many forests currently.
And Sr. Carol Ann said that some of the onus for the cut and run paradigm is on the American consumer. That is, the consumers want a wealth of cheap paper, a glut of cheap furniture, and unnecessary house additions creating a tremendous demand for wood.
“Forestry is an art, not a science,” said the nun who laughs about trading in a “habit for a hard hat.” If done right, logging can make the forests healthier, she said. And she added that the chirping of birds, the wind rustling through trees, and the sound of a chainsaw does not actually have to be as incongruous as one might think.
With all due respect to Sr. Carol Ann, while we believe some logging is necessary, we would do well to take a step back to the “old days” on this one. We believe chain saws should, ultimately, be scrapped for manual saws.
For one, chain saws are not emission controlled and create a tremendous amount of pollution.
And two, chain saws have allowed us to cut through forests at a breakneck pace, which in turn has a tendency to lead to the devaluing of the gift God has given us. We believe going at a much slower pace (manual saws), would lend itself to a saner, forest management scenario.
What’s more, forestry at a slower pace would mean less paper, furniture, and so on. Items would then be sold at a higher price – and thus, valued more. And to take it a step further, as in cutting trees without an engine, we believe there should be a return to furniture making without engines as well, or even electricity.
In a small backyard shop in Bluffton, Ohio, Andy Chappell-Dick does woodworking the “old way.” He uses no electricity, just old planes, saws, and chisels. In the middle of the room is a Seneca Falls Manufacturing Co., foot-pedal table saw, circa 1895.
“We are so awash in mass produced woodworking, I believe there’s a value in doing things slower,” Chappel-Dick told me.
Besides having one of Mr. Chappel-Dick’s pieces in the White House, the other thing our administration would push, ardently, is for care and extensive recycling of wooden products already in existence.
(Just walking up our block recently, there were two old, perfectly good wooden dressers, made of solid wood and sitting on a tree lawn almost in the jaws of an approaching dump truck. I quickly talked the homeowner into flagging off the dump truck and giving it another day, or two “Someone will take them,” I assured. And someone did – a half-hour after the dump truck passed.)
The point is we’ve become such a “throw-away” society. Yet these dressers represented a good amount of wood, and a good amount of manufacturing hours. (One actually looked handmade, although I wasn’t sure.)
In light of this, our administration would try to encourage a tremendously stepped up “recycling environment” when it comes to wood products.
12) Healthy Forest Restoration Act
To continue with forest management…
In Rawlins, Wyoming, I interviewed Mark Williams who is with the Bureau of Land Management there. He majored in Ecology at the University of North Dakota.
He said the Healthy Forest Restoration Act passed in 2004 is an attempt to have the same forest management techniques for all forests. Contrary to the intent of this Act, Williams believes forests in different regions should be managed differently, determinant on climate, tree species, various undergrowth makeup…
“And they (forests) must be managed in a sustainable way,” he added.
Our administration would push for a policy compatible with this simply because common sense indicates forests are indeed different, and forest management methodology that might work for one forest might not be as effective for another. And we would look to local experts to make those determinations for each forest region.
What’s more, Williams said roads are “one of the biggest problems in the forest.” He explained that currently, some 86% of the country is within one kilometer of a road. He said the large amount of roads in the nation’s forests exist because we have “catered to campers and loggers.”
The construction of forest roads destroys parts of valuable eco-systems. What’s more, the roads allow access to others who often damage the eco-systems. And, dirty vehicles coming into the area carry seeds from weeds and other plants not native to a particular forest eco-system. These, in turn, grow, multiply and change the biological integrity of a particular forest region.
The same happens on rangeland in these parts.
13) Rangeland Devastation and Reform
In an Audubon Magazine article, Ted Williams states: “Cattle grazing in the West has polluted more water, eroded more topsoil, killed more fish, displaced more wildlife, and destroyed more vegetation than any other land use.”
The environmental group Green Scissors (Cutting Wasteful and Environmentally Harmful Spending) notes that the public land grazing program administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is highly subsidized, benefits only a tiny fraction of the nation’s livestock operators, costs the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars each year, and is highly detrimental to the environment.
Karl Hess Jr. and Jerry Holechek would agree. Hess is a senior fellow of Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute, and Holecheck is a professor of Rangeland Science at New Mexico State University.
In an extensive paper on the subject, these experts explained that three-fourths of the federal land in the West is dedicated to public land grazing. This equates to 265 million acres, eclipsing logging, farming and mining. (Yet the grazing, although extremely extensive, only accounts for less than 3.5% of the nation’s beef.)
Hess and Holechek also note that the Rangeland Reform Act, championed by former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, has not been very effective in stemming overgrazing and its attendant damage to the eco-system.
Rangeland Reform was intended to triple grazing fees on public lands, which in turn was intended to discourage overgrazing. However, this received opposition from Western congressional delegates.
The Act was also intended to help heal damaged rangeland and curb future deterioration of rangeland soils, plants, wildlife and wetlands.
Hess and Holechek contend, however, that subsidies to ranchers is the major cause of degradation in both public and private components of federal grazing allotments and has further undermined the intent of Rangeland Reform. For example, they write that subsidies to livestock producers help keep the most marginal – and often most environmentally fragile – land in production by raising incomes and lowering costs sufficiently to justify levels of grazing that otherwise wouldn’t be cost effective – or environmentally sound.
Lauren Lambertson, who has been with the Bureau of Land Management in Rawlins, Wyoming (their Conservation District covers 4.2 million square miles) for 20 years, told me that it was her opinion that: “Rangeland Reform did nothing for us.”
And she listed several major concerns.
She said besides overgrazing, roads through the rangeland here allow for foreign weed infestation (again, brought in on dirty trucks), which destroys forage for deer, elk, antelope, sage grouse… And as a result, there’s a natural drop in animal population.
She said roads in this area are attributable to drilling operations.
Our administration would push for a moratorium on new roads through many of these federal forest and rangeland regions.
In addition, Ms. Lambertson echoed what Hess and Holechek contend: that overgrazing has become a major problem to the eco-system in her district.
And she said the “ideal” solution is to “get all the cows off the federal land.” This would curb the erosion and help the land start to heal. However, Ms. Lambertson said in Wyoming, the beef market accounts for significant income in the state. She said it is a “rancher state,” and this issue is a “political football.”
It would be our administration’s contention that the time for playing “political football” and pandering to big money interests is over. And it is time simply just to do the right thing when it comes to the environment.
In this case, doing the right thing would be allowing for the land to heal.
Beyond this, we would consider a program to give the Native Americans back some of this land with the agreement it be used in their traditional ways for hunting, fishing and organic growing.
As stated earlier, at a stop at the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, I met with Winona LaDuke. Ms. LaDuke was Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate on the Green Party ticket during Campaign 2000. She has started a White Earth Land Recovery Project on the Reservation to encourage outside interests (like corporate farms) to sell, or give back, some of the land so the Native Americans there can go back to traditional forms of hunting, fishing (sturgeon are being reintroduced back into the rivers), organic farming…
Ms. La Duke told me the philosophy here (as the philosophy of her Ojibwe Tribe) is that this generation of Native Americans is responsible for “seven generations” to come.
We need to get that same philosophy across to suburban Americans.
Note 1: There have been 11 UN “climate sessions” since Kyoto. As I write this (10/16/2015), the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is approaching. (Pope Francis published his recent encyclical on the environment to, in part, help influence this conference in regard to the urgency around coming up with firm global standards for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It would be our administration’s stance that we would be in line with columnist Gwynne Dyer (author of the book: “Climate Wars”) that there must be an asymmetrical deal that developed countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions deeply and fast – and give the developing countries enough help to grow their economies with green sources of energy.