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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 4:09 am | Mostly Cloudy 49º


Letter to the Editor: Future of Energy Requires Forward-Thinking, Strategic Approach

This is a reply to Lee Rosenberg. I won't argue history with Lee. He has a mind for recall of intricate details, but my impression is that he misses the strategic point by taking issue with all the details. Possibly the strategic risk issue was not made very clearly in the article he refers to.

I attended the World Business Academy (WBA) and CCE panel discussion at the Santa Barbara Library in late May. I was impressed with that as well as the WBA kickoff event several weeks earlier. This is a forward-thinking, strategic approach toward becoming more independent of centralized power companies and centralized distribution systems. What may not be well known is that long-distance centralized distribution systems are VERY inefficient and lose considerable power along the way. Decentralized micro grids offer a much better option.

The strategic issue for Santa Barbara as a circumscribed community unto itself is the perilous journey over mountain terrain that the primary transmission line travels, along with the deteriorated footings for those transmission towers. This exposes Santa Barbara to what appears to be an unacceptable risk of losing primary power source for weeks or longer because of the difficult terrain that repair vehicles and equipment would have to traverse.

Lee questions the facts about the history, but says little about the rationale for renewable energy, other than his one sentence comment: "Please acknowledge that currently available renewables on a large scale are not feasible and that oil (I agree we have to get rid of it someday) cannot be replaced now." This fails to acknowledge the capacity of solar panels to provide more than enough energy to power a home or small service business, with battery backup. I have solar panels on my roof in Santa Ynez Valley and have paid NOTHING to PG&E for power in the last 12 months. I provide PG&E power during the middle of the day, and they provide power at night, unless I use my battery backup.

Further, Lee says nothing about the harmful, toxic and polluting effects of oil, other than we need to replace it someday. That day is here, and there are many organizations working to achieve that all over the country — WBA and CCE among them in Santa Barbara.

Lee adds this comment: "I note that you have endorsed an expense with taxpayer money to do yet another feasibility study to determine what we already know." I wonder what it is that we already know? Do we know the cost of increased health problems to Santa Barbara city and county? We do know there are more and more studies being published that clearly indicate oil production is a major health hazard. Careful ongoing information gathering in Santa Barbara County has clarified where the oil wells are and the path of the pipelines through the entire county. While that seems to be in the less wealthy sections of Santa Barbara County, with wells often hidden from view, this is no longer acceptable. Three generations of families have lived with Big Oil in the county and the toxic effects of their production systems. There is an end coming to that toxic poisoning of this county.

Lee doesn't question the current state of affairs and writes essentially for NO CHANGE. This is not unusual for a person who has a penchant for looking backward into history, rather than forward into efforts to create a BETTER FUTURE than the one we collectively face.

It is not OK, in my value system, for Lee to unfairly criticize the two supervisors who actually dare to vote against Big Oil in this county. He has obfuscated the critical strategic issues, which are risk to health and risk of losing power, and he has failed to recognize what is needed for a better future.

The entire world is facing huge changes because of the release of Greenhouse Gases [GHGs] AND the release of stored deposits of methane from melting permafrost and methyl hydrate release from Arctic and Greenland ocean waters. The standard multiplier for methane reported in the public media is that a molecule of methane has 20x the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of a molecule of carbon dioxide [CO2]. What is not reported, however, is that the reference period for that multiplier is a hundred years! When you reduce the reference period to 20 years that multiplier increases to a range from 70x - 120x, depending on the source used. Now, reduce the reference period to a range from a few days to a few years, and the multiplier can go to 1,000. 

Wake up, Lee! If you have children and grandchildren, you are not taking care of their future by sticking with traditional antiquated centralized power distribution systems that rely on fossil fuels for energy. Looking to the past for answers will no longer work in a world that is heading for serious challenge, with pieces of it already present, e.g. the drought.

Do NOT rely on the predictions made by the UN's Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change. That was as much a political document as a scientific one, because every single word had to be agreed to by every single country participating. The 2007 4th Assessment report used linear rather than nonlinear projections and did NOT include methane at all! Every climate scientist (or at least the 97 percent who are not funded by Big Oil) knows that as the oceans and atmosphere warm, climate change and global warming will accelerate. Warming begets even more warming. So the only rational scientific approach for the statistical models is nonlinear projections. That means the curve goes up, Lee, and things happen faster and faster. 

And do not try to further obfuscate the issue by claiming there has been no warming. The extra heat has gone into the ocean, and that is hypothesized to help account for the rapidly increasing release of methane from Arctic waters. The Gulf Stream is warmer now, warming Arctic waters, triggering the release of huge amounts of methane, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases.

The only sensible, rational, intelligent and strategic approach worth considering is to do the feasibility study for Santa Barbara with solar as one of the primary sources of renewable energy. We must begin making positive, aggressive change now, before our children's future is lost. Challenging the credibility of these two supervisors is simply not appropriate, when the two supervisors who support Big Oil say nothing about the health effects of the toxic environment their voters are exposed to. Instead, Big Oil buys votes by inviting local voters to "focus groups" where they receive over a $100 for participation and sign legal nondisclosure agreements so they can't talk about what was presented to them.

It is time that good-hearted and well-intentioned people of Santa Barbara County awaken to the truth of what is going on here. This truth is coming out for all to see, hear and know. The truth can no longer be hidden in an era of great risk and the need for strategic change.

Irv Beiman
Santa Ynez

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