Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We are going backward

Global Warming is a consequence of lifestyle choices; of resources used because they are there and no negative consequences to us thinking we need to use them. We are evaporating eons of fossil fuels into the air we breathe and changing the earth's albedo.

Government provides rules for the allocation of resources, like how much air can be polluted. As a consequence of resource use governments manage growth and crisis- not very well. Business is exploitation of resources for growth and the deferral of risk in crisis.

James Hansen said Business As Usual was what will prevent solving the crisis of Global Warming; not a absence of available solutions.

Take Belmont's desire for a flat sewer rate or three cars per unit downtown.

According to City Manager Crist low intensity water users are not paying for the cost of infrastructure. High intensity users require larger infrastructure. LIU use it but don't pay for it is the argument. The Public Hearing will then be held on May 13, 2008, at 7:30 p.m. at One Twin Pines Lane, Belmont, CA 94002 in the City Council Chambers.

But that infrastructure is built up for the high intensity water users. And the city's unrequited commitment to sprawl has resulted in miles of non permeable roads, which have steadily increased over the last 30 years, causing runoff into the sewer, exacerbated by the higher rainfalls of global warming, now overtaxing the sewer system from 50 years ago. The total cost is estimated at $40M.

Someone said its unfair that she has to pay more to water her yard which benefits all of Belmont because it meets residential design standards for landscaping. Native plants, recycled water, and low water landscapes may be on the GAC charter but they are not presently policy. Why should a high flow user bear the costs she asked?

Because at the same time, in the Green Newsletter that Belmont sent out, we are asked to conserve water for our supplier Mid Peninsula Water Company. Given that we live in a 25" per year, semi arid low temperature climate, conservation makes sense. What is the harm with conservation anyway? That there will be more for our children? We could be even greener if local water capture, community gardens and home gardens got similar incentives like the solar waive fees and streamline guidelines to encourage installations.

In the past local government felt that growth was in the community interest and needed to be subsidized. Sewer, garbage, water, postal, electricity and gas rates and utility charges were averaged over the community to pay for consumption of open space. Downtowns were taxed to pay for sprawl; and deteriorated as people saw more value in exploiting open space than losing services downtown. Local government with the various departments at city hall make it possible to consume our way through the planet.

That infrastructure for Global Warming consumption patterns remains in place in all the jobs at city hall. Today the same low growth, now pro open space arguments, are saying that in the community interest, increased consumption (of water in this case) needs to be subsidized. Averaging the sewer rates means government still ends up subsidizing consumption rather than efficiency; while at the same time feeling a need to remind us to conserve for Mid Penn!

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