Friday, July 25, 2008

Cherriots responds re: Diesel Idling

The maintenance boss at Cherriots had this to say about the anti-idling post:
It has been a long standing practice of the Transit District not to idle buses at the transit mall except in the case where the outdoor temperature is less than 45 degrees or greater than 78 degrees. This is done for the comfort of our passengers. If you witnessed buses idling it is most likely because the temperature was greater than 78 degrees.
[Ummmm, I don't think so -- I've seen idling buses just about all year. But let's make it beyond dispute: how about Cherriots puts a couple big outdoor thermometers up high on the walls at the transit center with red lines at 78 and 45 degrees and paint the background green between those temperature lines with the words "No idling" -- that way everyone can know when the buses aren't supposed to be idling. And why not run a power cord to the bus to support the a/c and heat when the bus is parked -- why run a massive diesel just to run a/c and heating? And do we really need heat when it's 44F? Until we get power cords so that we don't ever need to idle the buses, why not reduce that lower limit to 38F and save a lot of fuel through the year?]
I have forwarded your concerns to the Operations Division so that appropriate follow up with the bus operators will be done just in case.

Our cost for diesel is priced competitively on a daily basis and since we do not pay state or federal taxes on fuel our cost is actually closer to the $2.60 per gallon than the $5 per gallon you mention. Despite this we still take it very seriously here when it comes to fuel costs.

Also, a majority of our buses run compressed natural gas which burns very clean. Our newest buses run clean diesel and meet the stricter 2007 emission requirements as well. If you continue to see buses idling at the transit mall please do not hesitate to contact me and I will follow up with the Operations Division.

Joe LaFreniere
Director of Maintenance & Technology
Salem-Keizer Transit
555 Court ST NE
Suite 5230
Salem, Oregon 97301
[If only all public officials were as forthcoming and direct in response to inquiries and comments from citizens. I think that drivers might be getting sloppy about idling a little more than Mr. LaFreniere might realize, but you definitely have to appreciate his responsiveness to the concern.]

Food sovereignty

Everything is discussed at the national level, but it all applies to
the local level too. Even in Salem, in the heart of Oregon's best ag
county, we are totally dependent on cheap and abundant fossil fuels
for our food supplies. Time to start gardening, folks! Some choice
bits from a great piece.

Food Sovereignty and the Collapse of Nations
from The Oil Drum - Discussions about Energy and Our Future by Prof. Goose

. . . The idea that the Soviet collapse was due in part to the fact that the Soviet Union gave up on its capacity for food self sufficiency (food sovereignty) in an effort to pursue industrialization seems absent from his theory. All of this has interesting implications for the United States regarding our own food sovereignty as the rising cost of food means more people are priced out of a healthy diet.

Here in the United States about 40% of our population farmed for a living around the turn of the 20th century. By 1950 that number had dropped to 12%. Today fewer than 2% do the work of growing food in America as we too have industrialized and urbanized our population. The other 98% of us work at a job which provides us money that allows us to buy food from a small number of domestic producers and from others who grow it abroad. We have given up our own food sovereignty as a people and instead rely almost entirely on an economic system to provide us with meals. . . .

If the economic system in the United States, an economic system based on growth, runs up against a depletion of resources that physically slows or stops our ability to grow economically, will we face a similar collapse? Could our nation, like the Soviet Union, come to regret our willingness to hand over our food sovereignty? Will fewer jobs mean less food? If the American economy of growth falters, how will the 98% of non-farmers be able to buy bread? Are we in for a revolution when a certain percentage of the American people are unable to buy food? . . .

Many Americans think that, unlike the Soviets, we have real choice in this country about what they eat. But our choices are made by grocery store managers, transported to us by truckers and grown a thousand and a half miles away. Our choices are harvested by migrant workers who are paid poverty level wages or worse and grown under contract by corporations whose practices destroy local communities and the biodiversity of healthy ecosystems. Just because we buy our food at the grocery store doesn't mean we have any real control over how we fed our families. What we have is the illusion of control and in this regard we might be worse off than the Soviets in terms of susceptibility. In a country where most of our heavily lobbied congressional representatives support a farm bill that rewards the makers of cheap junk food to the detriment of our children and those who grow our fruits and our vegetables, can we really say that we have a choice in what we eat? How it's grown? What chemicals are sprayed on it? Would an agricultural revolution not also give us back real choice? . . .

The ability of a nation to feed itself locally is important in establishing any attempt at addressing the crises currently facing humankind. Rapid resource depletion, population migration, global climate change, peak energy, a pandemic illness or any combination of these converging calamities could lead to more conflict and the possible collapse of our current system of living. Facing these issues can best be handled through a collaborative effort involving real education and a democratic approach towards problem solving. A swift move towards self sufficiency, along with a return to local interdependency, could go a long way towards mitigating our problems and stabilizing our democratic goals and aims. We could learn something from the Soviets. Not the notion that large-scale communism is untenable -- we already know that -- but the idea that giving up our ability to grow food locally makes us more susceptible to an economic downturn. Can we use this insight to regain control over our food and our governing institutions before the real want of limits sets in? We shall see.


A local transportation planner sends this helpful correction:
Just a quick correction on your post from 13 July, "A must read: "Peak Convenience.""

SKATS is not proposing any bond, rather it is the city of Salem that will have a transportation bond measure on the November ballot.
However, this planner also agreed that the Salem transportation bond planned for this fall includes spending for a new bridge:
Salem's transportation bond measure does identify purchasing right-of-way for a Willamette River bridge to be identified as part of the on-going EIS work. I don't recall the dollar amount specified.
So, while LOVESalem appreciates the correction, it appears the gist of the article was correct already: the City of Salem -- the key member of SKATS -- is already planning to spend money we don't have to buy right-of-way for a bridge we don't need in a location we claim not to have selected yet (at least if you suppose that the outcome of the Environmental Impact Statement is anything but a foregone conclusion).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Get ready ...

Fuel cost now driving up electric bills

Disconnect notices have risen sharply, indicating stress on more households.

By the way ----- HURRY

The Energy Trust of Oregon, the State of Oregon, and the U.S. Government would like you to install a solar hot water heater --- so much so that they will give you a TON of help to do so. They want to help you lose less power and save money on your bills --- and shouldn't you want that too?

In a suitable sunny location for a typical smaller-family household system in Oregon, costing between $8100 to $8500, you can conservatively expect to cut your hot water bills 50% or more. In return, Energy Trust will give you a cash rebate of approximately $1000, the State will give you a tax credit of $1500, and Uncle Sugar will kick in $2,000 (system must be installed before 12/31/08 for the federal tax credit).

A tax credit is not a deduction --- it's a dollar for dollar credit against taxes owed.

So, even if you don't have the money in savings and you can't borrow from family, you can probably go to your local credit union, borrow $8500, get the system installed, and pay back $4500 of the loan early in 2009, and then you can make monthly payments on the loan, in large part by using the money saved on hot water.

The cost of power is only going up --- pretty much straight up from here. You'd be crazy not to investigate this option right now, before these tax credits disappear in four months. There are some restrictions and you have to use an approved installer from a state-certified list, so you need to anticipate that their phones will be ringing off the hook soon as the credits get ready to expire. So don't miss out --- grab your share of the incentives now, and help reduce your exposure to rising utility costs forever.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An important message from Onward Oregon


Oregon is part of a groundbreaking regional program: the Western Climate Initiative. The WCI is developing a “cap-and-trade” program to limit greenhouse gas emissions involving seven Western States and three Canadian provinces. We need your help to ensure it’s strong enough to effectively reduce global warming pollution.

The WCI’s proposed cap-and-trade system will limit greenhouse gas emissions from parts of the economy that produce the most of them (like electric utilities). So, to be effective, the cap must include all major sources of carbon emissions. The WCI partners recently agreed to include transportation fuels within the cap; because transportation is responsible for nearly half the region’s greenhouse gas emissions, this was a significant step in the right direction. But unless we speak up now, transportation fuels may be phased in at a later time, after other sectors, making the program less effective. Go to our action web page to send a message to the governor now

Another problem with the proposal involves what are called “allowances.” The cap-and-trade system is based on polluters buying the right to pollute at auction; right now, the WCI would give away 75% of those allowances. Only the remaining 25% would have to be paid for. These percentages need to be flipped. Not only would this reduce emissions, it would provide vital funding for the programs we need to shift to a low carbon economy. These programs include renewable energy research, energy efficiency projects, and green retraining for workers. To take action now go to our action web page

We can already see some of the effects of global climate change right here in Oregon: things like extreme weather events, more frequent forest fires, invasive pest infestations and reduced salmon runs. We’re also likely to see more flooding, ongoing declines in snowpack and lower summer river flows. We need the Western Climate Initiative, and we need it to be strong enough to do the job. Go to our action web page

The Western Climate Initiative is an excellent program that promises to put Oregon and the West at the head of the worldwide movement against climate change. But we have to make sure that it lives up to that promise. Please contact the Governor today and let him know you support the WCI and other measures to prevent climate change. Go to our action web page

Visit our Western Climate Initiative Information Page for more information about this issue.


Take action now! Tell Governor Kulongoski to continue to work to strengthen the Western Climate Initiative. Send an email today! Go to our action web page to send your message now

Thank you,
The Team at Onward Oregon

Something to keep in mind when approached for money for a new bridge in Salem

"$300 million is peanuts in transportation projects."

-- Mark Becktel,
Salem Transportation Services Manager

Well said

Letter to the Editor
July 23, 2008

At first the Statesman Journal "viewpoint" promoting air service looked like just a little harmless civic breast-beating, not unlike that coming from our elected leaders.

But there's this little matter of $5 million-plus of public money to be spent on modernizing the terminal and lengthening the runway.

What we are seeing here is not just the interruption of Delta's Salem air service, to be resumed "when economic conditions ease." We currently are witnessing the demise of commercial air service as Americans have come to know it.

In a few years, most carriers will be gone, regular flights severely curtailed at all airports, many more crucial than Salem. Routine airline travel will be a thing of the past for most people.

It's irresponsible and clueless for our leaders to squander any public funds on resuscitating local air service, an artifact of the petroleum age that has come and will soon be gone. Even worse, if Oregon's future economic plans rely on Salem air service — as the Statesman Journal editors hint — we're in big trouble.

— David A. Beaton, Salem

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good thinking!

Well done to the Eugene Register-Guard for this.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Another example of community (un)preparedness

As we age in droves and more of us either through intention or poverty cannot get into nursing facilities, we are going to be wanting more in-home health care. How's that work when gas is $10 a gallon or more? When a gallon of gas costs about what the home-care worker is making per hour?

The time to build a functioning mass transit system is before you need it, not after.

Salem and Marion and Polk Counties are very badly prepared in this regard. We're big, and we're sprawled out to the maximum. Low residential density means that old people are going to be trapped alone, far from services, in houses that they can't keep up.

We need to move fast to figure out how to re-integrate people of all ages into society---when energy is scarce and costs are high (same thing), we are not going to be able to just buy the high energy lifestyle we enjoy now. As James Kunstler says, "It's coming off the menu," as in "not available at any price."

Real community preparedness for the new reality

Disaster preparedness isn't about how many freeze-dried buffalo chips you can cram into your basement --- it's about building community so that, when the "life as we know it" starts to look a lot less like TV advertisements and a lot more like the post-USSR Russia (inconsistent utilities, shortages, decayed infrastructure), you have a solid core of people who are already used to working together for the good of the group.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Outstanding piece from Baltimore Sun

Willamette Valley officials take note!

(hat tip to "The Oil Drum")

The coming black plague?

Oil fuels America's agricultural might. Soon, experts fear, it could plunge the world into a food crisis.


During harvest, farmer Edward F. Stanfield burns the equivalent of about 1,400 gallons of oil a week in his diesel tractors and combines. (Sun photo by Glenn Fawcett / July 16, 2008)

. . .

Like farmers around the world, they grow their hay, corn and soybeans with petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, harvest them with diesel combines, pack them with oil-based plastic and ship them in diesel trucks. The mechanized "Green Revolution" the family joined after World War II created an explosion in food productivity that allowed global populations to multiply. But it also forged a dependence on oil that could now lead to a food crisis, a small but growing number of scholars and activists warn.

Dr. Brian Schwartz, co-director of the program on global sustainability and health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said governments should start planning for a worst-case scenario, with soaring oil prices disrupting food supplies, just as they plan for other possibilities like nuclear war and bioterrorism.

"We have an industrial model of food production that requires intense amounts of fossil fuels," Schwartz said. "Food is going to be a huge problem for us."

Dale Allen Pfeiffer, author of the recent book Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture, goes even further in his warnings. With global oil production soon sliding into decline, fuel prices might continue to skyrocket until the world's food system collapses, causing starvation, he wrote.

"Growing evidence indicates that world [oil and gas] production will peak around 2010, followed by an irreversible decline. The impact on our agricultural system could be catastrophic," he wrote. "Hunger could become commonplace in every corner of the world, including your own neighborhood."

Pfeiffer estimated that the U.S. population of about 300 million is roughly a third larger than can be fed with the gradually shrinking oil supply expected over the next half-century. As a comparison to the agricultural crisis the world faces today, he noted, "The black plague during the 14th century claimed approximately a third of the European population, plunging that continent into a darkness from which it took them nearly two centuries to emerge." . . .

The idea of starvation triggered by oil prices sounds outlandish - and indeed, it is dismissed by many economists, farmers and petroleum producers.

John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, said the world's oil supply would not decline at any foreseeable time. The only risk of economic collapse and hunger, he said, will come if the government tries to intervene with price controls. Felmy said that more offshore oil drilling, as advocated by President Bush last week, could help with oil and food prices.

"Economists say you never run out of anything - it's just how costly it gets," said Felmy. "Technology continues to improve, and we continue to find new sources of oil. There is every indication that there is sufficient oil in the ground that could be recovered."

[The cornucopian fantasy---that we've never run out of things before, so we will never run out in the future, or be unable to provide them at the rate we now demand. This is a very threat to our health and our ability to meet the challenges of the new reality: the supposed expert, bought and paid for by industry, saying "Relax, go back to sleep, don't worry yourself about it .... Trust us, we're experts!]

Schwartz, of Johns Hopkins, said statistics compiled by well-respected petroleum geologists suggest that this picture of plenty is misleading. He said a critical mass of experts is predicting that petroleum production will shrink in the next few years because new oil discoveries have been declining since the 1960s, despite increased exploration. Meanwhile, demand for fuel will continue to rise rapidly in the expanding economies of countries such as China and India.

Falling production will accelerate the already soaring price of fuel, to the point that it's too expensive for average consumers and farmers, Schwartz said.

It's not that the world will literally run out of oil, Schwartz said. Some oil will always remain in the ground. The problem is that petroleum is a limited resource, and oil production always follows a bell curve, with a peak and then an inevitable dropoff, he said.

More reliance on low-grade tar sands or harder-to-reach oil will cost more, contributing to price escalation. Increased drilling of known oil fields, such as those in Alaska or off the California coast, will only temporarily delay the fundamental dynamic of surging demand but less coming out of the ground, Schwartz said.

This problem of "peak oil" was first outlined by Shell Oil's research director M. King Hubbert during the 1950s. He was ridiculed when he predicted in 1956 that the United States, then the world's biggest source of oil, would experience a production peak between 1966 and 1972, followed by decline.

But Hubbert was proved right when oil production in the lower 48 states peaked in 1970 and then started to drop, despite increased drilling, Richard Heinberg wrote in The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies.

Canada's oil production peaked in 1974, Egypt's in 1993, Syria's in 1995, Ecuador's in 1999, Yemen's in 2001 and Mexico's in 2004, among other countries now in decline. Overall, oil production is past peak in 33 of the world's 48 largest oil-producing companies, according to data compiled by Schwartz.

Even Saudi Arabia, with the world's largest petroleum reserves, may have peaked. The kingdom is pumping increasingly large amounts of water into the globe's largest oil field, called Ghawar, trying to get the remaining fuel out if it, industry historian Matthew R. Simmons wrote in Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy.

Simmons, a former oil adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is no tree-hugging alarmist. But he says Saudi oil production "is likely to go into decline in the very foreseeable future."

The well-known oil investor T. Boone Pickens concluded that the world passed its peak oil production in 2005, echoing the rough time frame laid out by Hubbert and several oil geologists. Even the buttoned-down investment firm Merrill Lynch has predicted that world oil production will peak in 2015.

To plan for this inevitable downturn, nations must quickly shift toward renewable fuels, including solar energy and wind, Schwartz said. The United States must start to conserve energy and change living patterns so that people no longer commute from sprawling suburbs. People need to walk to work, use mass transit and start eating food from local farms so they don't depend on fish and fruit flown in from Asia and South America, he said.

"Countries are not prepared for this at all," Schwartz said. "And because they are not prepared, they will tend to go toward temporary solutions like burning more coal and oil shale that will only make climate change worse." . . .

Still, replacing oil isn't easy. It's more dense with energy than most alternatives. Burning one barrel (42 gallons) provides the same energy as 12 farm laborers working every day over a year.

The Stanfields burn the equivalent of about 1,400 gallons a week in their diesel-powered tractors and combines during harvest. With cheap oil, father and son have been able to work the fourth-generation family farm as a twosome. But without diesel, they would need scores of field workers.

Although Americans are keenly aware of rising fuel prices, Edward B. Stanfield doesn't believe they're yet ready to trade in golf clubs for scythes.

"It would take hundreds of people with back-breaking work to operate this farm," Stanfield said. "And where would these workers come from? Our society today is lazy. People just want to go to the store and buy their food. They don't want to know where it comes from."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another fantasy pinup for the lost age of automobility

Well, someone sent me a map showing the latest wrinkle in the dreamscape -- instead of widening the existing bridges if they needed more capacity (or, heavens to betsy, tolling them to reduce the need for more capacity and to raise money for maintenance, which will be desperately needed soon), the exhalations from the latest hit on the crackpipe of imagined federal funding produced a weird new idea -- build a new span between Marion St. and the RR bridge, with a weird impact on traffic at both ends. I'd give you a link, but the folks in ODOT Region 2 appear to have quit updating the website for this fiasco, so you'll be the last to know what's planned.

The meeting planned for July 23 (Anderson Room, Salem Public Library, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.) isn't listed either. Apparently the deep concern with public participation and involvement is only a millimeter thick when it looks like people might not be hitting on the crackpipe and won't buy into the dream.

Apparently the prime directive is SPEND MONEY NO MATTER WHAT because, after all, there's just so much of it lying around these days ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cherriots, Get Your Head Out: Stop the Idling!!

One of the problems with not being a knee-jerk anti-governmental type is the pain you regularly have to suffer when government service agencies, as matters of policy, do stupid and destructive things. Things that make people dislike them, waste money, and provide no positive benefit whatsoever. Things that are head-slappingly stupid, that nobody working for the agency would ever do if they had to pay for the behavior out of their own pockets, and yet they don't speak up at work and get things changed. Or the management is so brain-dead that workers long ago quit trying to save them from themselves.

Salem suffers from a fair amount of this. Like Cherriots letting all those huge buses idle at the Transit Center in between their rare forays out onto the streets (with most runs operating at 1/2 hour or even 1 hour headways, the buses are idle a staggering amount of time each day). Just today, I sat and counted more than six buses that were idling more than 15 minutes, filling the Valley with toxic pollutants and wasting gallons and gallons of $5 diesel. This has been going on since, well, forever. Our "cold" weather isn't all that cold, and if we did have cold start problems, it would be trivially easy to install power hookups for the buses at the Transit Center to allow the engines to stay warm while turned off.

In fact, isn't that a much better use of $4.75M bucks that Salem is planning on blowing as a monument to futility at the airport?

Now "punishing" Cherriots by voting against the upcoming bond isn't going to work---all that would accomplish is to further degrade the system and cost us Saturday service (on top of the already no Sunday service problem).

What has to happen is for people who
  1. breathe, or
  2. pay rent, or
  3. pay property taxes, or
  4. work, or
  5. live in the Cherriots service area to
call them or send them an e-mail and say STOP IDLING.

If you know any Cherriots drivers, ask them to ask the union to get involved -- if the union realizes that the idling is costing their members their jobs (because management is wasting the money that could be putting drivers (and passengers) on the street), they could really help get this fixed.

Diesel idling is a pointless, wasteful, expensive, dirty habit.

Now double that cost estimate, because diesel is now closer to $5/gallon, not $2.60

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A must read: "Peak Convenience" (corrected)

Robert Rapier's always-excellent "R-Squared" energy blog (motto: "Because everyone is entitled to my opinion") has a great piece today that should be must reading for all Salem and Marion County officials. Marion County is the leading ag county in Oregon and yet we are as fully dependent on cheap fossil fuels as Las Vegas.

Yet, the Salem City Council is preparing to blow $5M on an airport upgrade that will sit idle and unused, even as the local bus "system" faces further service cuts if a bond doesn't pass this November -- which is precisely when the city* proposes to offer a huge bond that, they hope, will enable them to pour more concrete and keep the current auto-dominated party going, AND the Salem-Keizer school board is offering a huge bond designed to make up for decades of neglect and to buy even more diesel for the massive fleet of school buses. James Howard Kunstler notes that these buses are perhaps the most telling symbol of a vanishing suburban affluence: rather than have an integrated transit system available for all, we build communities that make it difficult or impossible for people who can't drive to get anywhere, then fund a separate transit system that operates twice a day to serve a select few of the victims of our "planning."

In other words, people in various parts of Salem and vicinity are going to face several enormous bonds for things they value greatly -- their kids and the All-American right to drive whenever and wherever I want -- along with a homely little bond for the bus system. This doesn't bode well for the transit bond at all. So we really are likely to face a huge increase in inconvenience, because we will lose Saturday bus service if this bond doesn't pass. And I'm not even sure the other bonds will pass. The economy is already getting hammered, and we're still in the salad days of summer; oil hasn't hit $200/bbl yet, the winter heating season is still a distant cloud on the horizon, PGE hasn't jacked up its rates yet. By November, all that will change. Oil is likely to remain at or above $150/bbl, possibly much more, unlikely to be much less. The first frosty days of winter will send natural gas prices spiking up. It's quite possible that voters will respond to these circumstances --- and their fury at seeing Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae bailed out, while ordinary people lose their houses in record numbers --- by adopting a "vote no on anything with a dollar sign attached" mantra, even when they would only hurt themselves by denying themselves something that we are very much going to need (a functioning bus system).

[* Text corrected to insert "city" for "local transport planning body, "SKATS"]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The City Hall Cargo Cult: City officials respond to Delta's termination of service

Delta to ground flights out of Salem airport

After just one year of service, flights will stop Oct. 10

In a crushing blow to city officials who had tried for years, and finally succeeded, to get passenger air service restored, Delta Air Lines told Salem officials Friday that it was leaving.

Odd to spint this as a "crushing blow" to city officials -- who, after all, put none of their own money at risk on this doomed venture. Even stranger, they intend to press on, pouring millions down the drain by turning the airport into something like the "Monument to a Brief Period of Scheduled Service in Salem."
The response to passenger air service shows Salem is a strong, viable market for an airline, city officials assert, and efforts will continue to pursue more air service.

"We don't have anyone knocking on our door at this moment," Woods said.

Salem is one of the many small cities that have seen reductions in air service.

Earlier this week, Delta Airlines said it would end its twice-daily nonstop flights between Los Angeles and Eugene, as of Sept. 1. Travelers along Oregon's southwestern coast also learned just days ago that Horizon Air was ending its direct flights from North Bend to Portland. Airports in Klamath Falls and Pendelton have also been notified of service cuts.

"Our only solace is we are not alone," said Ray Burstedt, president of the Strategic Economic Development Corp., the local economic-development agency. The business community had pushed to restore passenger air service in Salem because it's an important tool to help recruit new employers.

"I don't think it's going to kill us, but it's always easier with air service," Burstedt said.

Salem Mayor Janet Taylor said she was disappointed by Delta's decision to stop serving the city, but not discouraged about the airport's prospects. The city will move forward with plans to make major airport upgrades.

"We have to position ourselves for the future. We just can't fold," Taylor said.

In June, the city received a state grant to help make $4.75 million worth of improvements at the airport, including a longer runway and a larger terminal.

City officials, however, said a plan to use as much as $130,000 in hotel tax funds for a renewed airport marketing effort this year will be put on hold. Meanwhile, Salem leaders will continue to talk with Delta in hopes of getting the airline to reverse its plans.

Imagine the reaction if the school district announced that, despite the decision to close a school, officials planned to spend more than $4 million to upgrade the classroom facilities, "justified" by the logic that only 1% of the money is from the local tax coffers. I can't imagine that there are that many people in Salem who think it's OK to waste money if it comes from the Federal till rather than the city's, but we'll see. It could be that admitting the new reality is just too much, and that people would rather be like those cargo cults in the South Pacific, the primitive tribes who build entire fake airfields from bamboo in an effort to lure back the planes that brought all the strange and wonderful cargo.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lincoln City to go carbon neutral

Another Oregon city getting ahead of its capital city ...

Lincoln City moves to become carbon neutral

Saying the reward greatly outweighs the risk, the Lincoln City Council voted Monday to approve commitment of $10,000 in support of the Salmon River/Drift Creek Watershed Project in keeping with the city's desire to become Oregon's first carbon-neutral city.

"This is not budgeted, but I believe we can afford it and can change the budget accordingly," City Manager David Hawker said of a proposal made in May by Duncan Berry, vice-president of the Westwind Stewardship Group, which manages the 500-acre Westwind conservation area north of Otis. "I believe the project shows great promise, and it is something we should support."

In its letter of intent, the city said its goal with involvement in the Carbon Co-op of Otis would be "to determine its rough carbon emissions and those of the larger community, as well as visitors to our city in order to find ways to sequester or mitigate this carbon locally within our own watersheds."

The aim of the co-op is the conservation of energy and the pursuit of carbon mitigation strategies that improve the natural systems in the Salmon/Drift Creek and Neskowin/Hawk Creek watersheds. The co-op ultimately intends to pursue four basic strategies to accomplish that goal: education, conservation, carbon mitigation and carbon sequestration.

The co-op, in conjunction with Ecotrust, a nonprofit Portland-based ecosystem group, would identify property owners of at least 20 forested acres with a mature tree stand of at least 30 years who would benefit financially by delaying or altering plans to harvest of their land.

Among other things, the Salmon River project intends to complete a carbon assessment of the area and determine what the current carbon stock per major landowner is; what the projected carbon stock over the next 100 years might be under current management regimes; how carbon stock would change over time under various scenarios of permanent protection and extended rotations to different landowners; and how many sequestered tons of carbon dioxide that would generate.

"The project is not highly defined, and $10,000 is a lot of money since it has an uncertain degree of risk. I don't know how successful it will be, but the payoff is quite substantial in several areas," Hawker said. "Considering the risk and considering the payoff, it is well worth the expenditure ... like any new and unique endeavor, the degree of success can't be predicted. We will get few better opportunities to explore a significant step forward."

Councilors agreed with Hawker's assessment.

"It shows enormous potential," councilor Rick Brissette said. "Just the idea that Lincoln City can become a zero-carbon community someday is just phenomenal.

"It's become a huge issue and a tourism-related issue now all over the country, with people only wanting to visit sustainable and environmentally sound communities on their vacations."

In separate but related action, the council unanimously voted to impose upon itself a sustainability policy to promote construction of public buildings and facilities that are environmentally responsible and healthy buildings in which to work.

The policy, which imposes upon the city measures to incorporate green building principles and practices in the design, construction and operations of all new and renovated buildings, is expected to yield long-term cost savings to taxpayers.

Saying, "Let's kick it up a notch," the council also heard from resident Jim Daniels, a member of the Lincoln City Planning Commission, urging it to adopt green building policies for residential construction as well as public.

"I say we go a step further by including an ordinance that also would include residential construction," said Daniels, who proposed a carbon fee such as one implemented in Ashland that would be refunded to contractors who build green upon completion of their projects under certain standards such as Earth Advantage, which certifies buildings with at least a 15 percent increase in energy savings.

"If we're going to be carbon neutral, let's become carbon neutral residential as well," he said. "The reason for that is there is more residential construction than commercial construction."

Daniels cited figures saying 39 percent of all environmental carbon emissions come from homes and that certified buildings outperform non-certified buildings by 30 percent, with an energy savings of up to 50 percent.

"That's significant for this city we live in to become carbon neutral," said Daniels, who also mentioned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the Green Building Initiative as significant programs in certifying, measuring and quantifying green building standards.

He said other items to consider along green building certification were mandatory recycling of all leftover construction materials and involvement in Pacific Power's Blue Sky renewable energy program.

He said the city and its leaders should initiate, and then be cited for requiring builders to use local materials to reduce travel and suggested faster granting of permits for builders who agree to green building practices.

"More and more people are interested in sustainable design. It's become a big buzz word, but it needs to become more than just a buzz word," said Daniels, who also proposed tax incentives and rebates to those who built to green standards.

"The builder doesn't necessarily see a profit by building green, the owner does by giving back to the community a house that uses less energy and has less carbon emissions," he said. "But it's to the builder's advantage because he gets the market share, a substantial one if you look at the statistics, but it's the homeowner one who really benefits. The city benefits as well because we have a healthier city to live in as more and more people meet these standards."

Councilors also heard from Julie Sexton, a member of the Preservation Association of Devils Lake, who has volunteered, along with her husband, Bill, of Bill X Sexton Construction in Otis, to install a watercraft rinse station at Regatta Grounds and, if successful, Holmes Road Park.

"It's a project we feel is of great need, and we want to move forward to keep out invasive species," she said. "We want to do that with what we'd prefer to call a watercraft rinse station, opposed to boat wash station, so that people don't feel they can wash their boats there with suds and stuff but rinse off their trailers, boats and motors before and after launching."

Sexton, with support from Parks and Recreation Director Ron Ploger, said they would return with a more precise conceptual plan for the station. Additional grading will be needed and designs made for infiltration to the sewer system, Ploger said.

"All the agencies I've talked to felt all "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" about it, but, unfortunately, it's not in their budgets," Sexton said.

The council expressed its approval of Sexton's efforts to aid in the preservation of the lake's water quality and wildlife.

"I think that if you've been reading the articles in the papers about the invasive species you will find this project worthwhile and well in our interest to work to stay ahead of the game," Councilman Ed Kuntz said.

How the New Reality Plays for School Budgets

Three stories about schools struggling with their past--as in the past where they built schools that are not sustainable and that depend greatly on abundant cheap energy. The typical school today is far too large and far too distant from its students, necessitating an expensive and wasteful cycle of nasty diesel powered bus travel and parents hauling kids back and forth.

Salem-Keizer Schools are planning an expensive bond this fall, supposedly to make up for failures to maintain the facilities that the district already owns. But nothing I've heard suggests that the school board recognizes that, as far as energy is concerned, this isn't a temporary blip -- this is the new reality, and that the suburban mega-school model isn't going to cut it any more.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Plan C: Consume Less, Conserve More, Create Community

Pat Murphy of Community Solutions has an important new book, Plan C. Pat was one of the people who studied Cuba's response to the abrupt collapse of its oil patron and provider, the late Soviet Union. Although people in Cuba definitely experienced hard times when oil imports dropped to about 5% of prior levels, nobody died. There were grave problems--Cubans lost an average of 20 lbs. in body weight, on a population that was already far less obese than North Americans--but starvation didn't happen. The populace rediscovered the power of petrochemical free agriculture, and so were able to survive the worse. (See "The Power of Community," a good DVD by Murphy and company for more info on this. It's an absorbing movie.)

Plan C, however, is for and about us, the North Americans who are used to seeing the world through a car windshield. It's about trying to help communities like Salem prepare for the new energy regime that is now clearly upon us. Buy it through Community Solutions or a local bookstore here in Salem.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"What we have here is a failure to communicate"

The Statesman-Journal editorial board looks peak oil and the airlines' meltdown in the eye and denies:

Airport projects will enhance local economy

Future growth warrants terminal, runway work

High fuel prices are forcing airlines to cut back services and charge more. Delta has trimmed its SkyWest Airlines flights through Salem on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from two round trips daily to one.

So why would the city — and the feds, and the state, through lottery dollars — be investing in a larger terminal and a longer runway at Salem Municipal Airport?

Because the economy booms and goes bust in cycles. Oregon and the nation will rebound. And when that happens, the Mid-Valley and Salem will be ready.

[Interesting concept that--the belief that our economy will function in the days of $150+ (and ever scarcer) oil the same way that it did when oil was $20-$30 a barrel.]

Salem so far has weathered this downturn with less damage to its housing market than most of the nation. Construction continues here at a pace many other cities would envy.

Delta's cutback in Salem — just two round trips per week on slow days — was modest, given what is happening to airlines nationwide. The fact remains that during the carrier's first year operating twice-daily Salem-Salt Lake City flights, more than 46,500 passengers passed through the Salem terminal.

[And what says that this modest cut is the last one?]

Recruiting a carrier for north-south flights would be the logical next step. But Salem's airport terminal barely can handle the demands of two overlapping SkyWest flights at midday, let alone additional flights.

That's where the $1.5 million terminal expansion project comes in. It will add about 3,800 square feet of space, new restrooms and parking-lot improvements. Construction could start as soon as this fall.

The second part of the package announced last month is a $3.25 million runway extension. It will provide an extra margin of safety for Salem's present runway — the shortest in the state among airports with commercial jet service. It will take about two years to complete environmental assessments and design and build the project.

["Recruiting" a carrier -- funny, that always seems to involve giving money to private businesses, which never commit to continuing the routes one second past the end of the money.]

With that kind of lead time, it's clear that the city can't wait for the economy to improve. The terminal must be ready to accept added passengers, and the runway must be able to handle flights no matter how hot the weather — or at least be well on the way to that goal. Otherwise, Salem leaders can't seriously try to recruit more carriers and flights to McNary Field.

[Astonishing--the Coast Starlate makes one run each day in each direction and we are stuck with a weird amalgam of bus/rail service for our connections up and down the valley, yet the Stateman-Journal can only think of pouring money into a mode of travel that is already imploding.]

It's a tribute to Salem that the city's proposals won competitive grants to build these projects. In fact, state and federal money will cover about 99 percent of the total cost; only $47,500 will come from local sources.

[Meanwhile the library is cutting the bookmobile and the computer lab hours, among millions of dollars in city budget cuts.]

The awards suggest that Salem's airport is more than a matter of hometown pride. State officials think it plays a role in Oregon's transportation strategy as well.

Meanwhile, these projects will pump $4.75 million into the local economy. That's one way to help it snap back.

[Well, obviously expansion of Salem's airport has a role--it's a monument to denial, a tribute to the "Consensus Trance" that grips society today, the impenetrable haze that helps people pretend that the fundamental realignment of society to accomodate scarce and high-priced energy (and a climate crisis) is optional.]

Monday, July 7, 2008

Important book: Community Guide to Environmental Health

Taking greater care of our own community's health while the medical-industrial complex retrenches and relocalizes will be a more and more important subject as "The Long Emergency" progresses. NYT Review here.

Hesperian celebrates the publication of our newest title, A Community Guide to Environmental Health!

Drawing the connections between people's health and the environments in which we live, this groundbreaking book empowers health promoters, development workers, educators, activists, community leaders and ordinary people to take charge of their communities’ health.

Individual copies of the book are available for $28, plus shipping and handling, and we can offer a 20% discount on orders of 5 or more copies of this book. It’s also available on CD for $18, and the two together are $36, a savings of $10 off the retail cost of each if purchased separately. Order now!

There is also a digital version available for free download by clicking here.

How to pretend to be able to afford that which you can't afford

h/t to "Loaded Orygun" where this came from:
Horizon Air will be discontinuing flights from Klamath Falls north to Portland. And the story gives a glimpse of the hidden economy of the airline industry:
The announcement came as the Klamath Falls Airport prepared to welcome United Express line SkyWest Air, which will start offering southbound flights Monday to San Francisco.

Horizon's June 27 decision to pull out of Klamath Falls and North Bend/Coos Bay was unexpected, though city and airport officials say it didn't come as a shock, either.

Airline officials cited rising fuel costs as a major factor - jet fuel costs have rocketed from $80 a barrel to more than $150, an increase of almost 100 percent.

The partner carrier of Alaska Air also is transitioning to larger planes that may not be financially viable in smaller markets, officials said. Currently, Horizon flies the 37-seat Q200. The new plane, the Q400, is designed to hold 76 passengers.

Klamath Falls Airport Director Derek Martin said it was unlikely the local community could fill the bigger planes, even if the airline offered two flights per day instead of the current three a day. The Q200 flights aren't full now.

"If traffic had been stronger and we had been more profitable, we probably wouldn't have been taking this action," said Dan Russo, vice president of marketing and communications at Horizon Air.

Russo added that the new southbound service would cut into already small passenger loads, and SkyWest's entrance into the market gave the company added incentive to pull out.

Horizon Air was not offered a revenue guarantee - called a small community air service grant - to fly north, Russo said. United Express will be getting one over the next year.

The grant, which will disperse about $390,000 to the southbound provider and includes $10,000 for marketing, is geared to help the new carrier during its "ramp up" period, Martin said. Before Klamath Falls courted other airlines, it offered the incentive and grant to Horizon for a southerly route, he added.

Horizon Air refused the offer.

Small Community Air Service Grants are a federal subsidy administered out of the Dept. of Transportation, designed to keep commercial air service available in places other than the big urban hubs. Tentatively, the DOT has in the neighborhood of $10 million to award through the program.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Classic carhead thinking: 12 lanes, no effect on land use

"[T]raffic forecasters involved in planning a new bridge, projected to cost $4.2 billion, were told to assume a new 12-lane bridge would not trigger any more growth than if the current bridge were simply left in place. Yet a 12-lane bridge would handle 40 percent more cars during afternoon rush hour, according to the forecasters' calculations."
(h/t OLCV)