Sam Burnham, Curator
By now I’m sure you’ve heard this term being slung around. The mystical, magical plan in which all proven sources of energy and economy are discarded for unicorns and glitter and the Federal Government saves the world from menacing onslaught of “cow farts.” Leave it to a New Yorker to blame cows for climate change.
This proposal is the handiwork of the freshman member of Congress from New York City, the amazing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She argues that the deal will reverse climate change while revolutionizing the economy and creating mind blowing prosperity.
But, as is to be expected, the plan is as silly as it is ignorant. For one thing, she cuts out air travel. Then she tweets advice to kids on how to reduce their carbon footprint. One of her points is to give up eating meat and dairy, recommending instead her go-to breakfast of banana and peanut butter. At home in NYC that means opting for peanut butter trucked in from Alabama or Georgia and a banana flown in from South America or maybe even Indonesia instead of a dairy product produced within 100 miles of her home. According to the EPA, ranchers and dairy farmers account for about 2% of all greenhouse gases while transportation accounts for about 28%. So a relatively short truck or train trip could bring her dairy produced in state but she opts for a banana flown in from the other side of the planet and some peanut butter from over 1000 miles away.
The trick to a greener, more sustainable, more ecologically friendly future is with local and regional sources for food, energy, water, goods, services, etc. The more products we use that are locally sourced or at least regionally sourced, the less transportation is required and we cut into the 28% and never mind the 2%. Quit straining at gnats.
As the South continues to develop cleaner, more sustainable energy solutions, and broadband internet services connect our region better, options will arise that will cut those transportation and energy emissions more and the bovine emissions will matter even less.
If Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is really interested in fixing emissions, she should find sustainable methods to heat homes in and travel through that wretched city she lives in. She should deal with the Sasquatch sized carbon footprint of New York before pointing at the ant sized one in rural areas. As the flora in rural areas, especially trees in forests and farms, continues to consume the infinitesimal greenhouse gas emissions from rural sources, the cities continue to make far more than their flora can contain. If greenhouse gas emissions is the conversation she wants to have, then her town needs some greenhouse Beano first.
Regardless of any legislation or action in Washington, a localized grass roots economy will always be the greenest option. The closer we are to the goods and services we use, the more our sources of energy match our climate and topography, and the more walkable sour communities, then the greener our environment, the more prosperous our towns, and the healthier our people will be. We can never have a green economy so long as our small towns are cluttered with shuttered workplaces. We need Washington to step out of the way so we can rebuild this nation on our Main Streets.That would be a Green New Deal.
Sam Burnham, Curator
It seems to be happening more and more. Maybe it has always been this way but we see it more now because of social media. Whichever it is, it’s a shame. Some kid out on a street corner selling lemonade or hot dogs or whatever other products these young entrepreneurs have come up with. Some neighbor or passerby gets on the cell phone to let the government know that a free citizen is selling merchandise they own on their own property. Oh, the humanity!
Sometimes it is a "real" vendor in the area complaining. Sometimes it is an overzealous safety concern (people who think the government is here to provide regulations to keep us safe from ourselves and our lack of decision making skills). Most of the time, it's just the friendly neighborhood killjoy who thinks they need to keep the chaos of a lemonade stand at bay.
But these ventures are more then just a rite of passage for young Americans. They are an important experience with the free market. Is this really the type of behavior we wish to discourage?
I was expecting something like this to happen when we were in Washington. There were some young men, not really kids who were out making some money. These guys were probably in their 20s or so. They had coolers with iced down bottled water and Gatorade. They were selling them like hot cakes to tourists.
They had a few market advantages: 1) Washington is stifling hot. 2) Tourists don’t expect that heat and fail to prepare. 3) These guys knew where tourists go, they knew where to find their customers. 4) They had the best price point on The Mall.
It would have been easy easy for someone to complain. Health inspection, business license, vendor permit, etc.
But here’s the reality. They weren’t being obnoxious, pushy, or rude. They called out their products and prices and if you didn’t walk over and buy one, no pressure, someone else will. They were selling a legal product that people needed for their health. They could have just as easily been selling counterfeit designer merchandise or dope a few blocks over, but they weren’t. The irony of the situation is the same people who would complain about water vendors would be even more angry if the people they shut down started selling drugs. Here are some young men operating in a free market, putting in an honest day of work by offering a useful product at a fair price to willing customers. That’s the American model of business.
So, if you ever get the notion to call in and report someone who is making an honest attempt to get some spending money or pay the rent, do the world a favor, don’t.
Sam Burnham, Curator
I recently had a chance to talk energy with an employee of Plant Hammond. Hammond is a coal fired plant in the Coosa community, west of Rome. I didn’t ask him to formally go on the record so I’ll treat him as anonymous but what he shared with me is accurate and easily verifiable.
I've discussed Hammond on the blog previously. It’s quite doomed. In fact, they are sitting on a remnant of coal that can either be used in case of an unforeseen need, such as a failure at another plant, or burned off during the peak times this coming winter. New regulations on the handling and storage of wet processed coal ash go into effect April 15, 2019. After that date, the boilers at Hammond will never burn another ounce of coal.
Hammond was built in the 1950s and has provided a more than adequate return on investment for The Southern Company and Georgia Power. But the plant is aging and the upgrades needed to sustain the plant are excessive and not advisable. It is far more cost effective for Georgia Power to replace the plant. So they’ll close and demolish it like they did with Plant Branch bear Eatonton.
But there is already talk of using the real estate for more energy options. The company is planning to build solar on the site. With the distribution infrastructure already in place, the site is already primed for use. Adding gas generators would require extensive pipeline construction. The sun is already shining on the sites so solar make sense.
We also discussed the fact that a few weeks ago, Georgia Power put a batch of solar from California on the grid. The amount brought in was in excess of the generation capacity of Plant Hammond. Solar isn’t just a rooftop hobby anymore. It is becoming a serious power option.
With possible solar options, the expansion of Plant Votgle, and new natural gas generators coming online, not to mention a respectable presence of hydroelectric facilities, Georgia will have a further diversified energy portfolio. We’ll be tapping sources closer to home. And that can mean cheaper, cleaner, more efficient energy in our state and in The South.
But coal isn't dead. With a powerhouse like Plant Bowen, in Euharlee, near Cartersville, coal is alive and well. Bowen remains the one of the most powerful generation stations anywhere and it’s not going anywhere soon. The state also has other substantial coal plants. So those trains hauling in huge chunks of West Virginia will still be rolling through for the foreseeable future.
With all this in mind, the next episode of our podcast will feature a chat with Tim Echols of the Georgia Public Service Commission. He shares some ideas for the future as well as how the future is already well underway right here in the Peach State. We talk about some of the limitations on our portfolio and also other issues related to energy production. I hope you'll give the episode a listen. .
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire