The Green Scene

Shuler co-sponsors a climate bill

Rep. Heath Shuler recently signed on as co-sponsor of a bill to reduce global warming emissions. The Climate Stewardship Act of 2007, also known as H.R. 620 or Gilchrest-Olver after the representatives who introduced it, is one of six bills introduced at the federal level that seek to address climate change. At the time of this writing, it had 121 co-sponsors.

Gilchrest-Olver would mandate carbon capping and trading as a way to stabilize overall emissions of heat-trapping gases, which are linked to rising global temperatures. It also establishes a timeline for greenhouse-gas reductions, with an end goal of lowering emissions to 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2049.

The news came as a pleasant surprise to organizers at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a clean-energy advocacy group that has an office in Asheville. “We applaud and are very proud of Congressman Shuler,” says Jennifer Rennicks of SACE, who’s been tracking all six bills in the House and Senate pertaining to global warming. “We think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Rennicks noted that Shuler signed onto the bill on April 18, just after Asheville hosted Step It Up, a rally linked with a nationwide effort to pressure Congress to pass legislation addressing climate change. At the rally, SACE collected signatures on postcards urging Shuler to support a climate bill, but by the time they were ready to be mailed, he’d already endorsed the Climate Stewardship Act. The requests were crossed out and converted into thank-you notes instead.

TTA: Descent is not un-American

When organizers from Transition Town Asheville speak about an “Energy Descent Action Plan” at their upcoming panel, they’ll be talking about a strategy to cope with diminishing oil reserves after the global supply has peaked. The group doesn’t intend to hatch some widespread solution to peak oil; instead, it aims to determine what steps Asheville can take at the local level to develop its own alternatives.

It may sound like an ambitious and far-reaching goal, but members of TTA say similar strategies have been developed elsewhere. In Kinsale, Ireland, a post-petroleum game plan was developed by an independent group and unanimously adopted by the town council. Kinsale’s blueprint in turn became the basis for locales in nearby Britain, as well as a handful of U.S. cities including Ithaca, N.Y., and Portland, Ore., to become “transition towns.”

TTA operates under the assumption that the price of oil will eventually get high enough to affect every aspect of the economy, including food production and distribution. “Some big changes are afoot, and it’s prudent to begin planning,” says Pat Hinkley, a founding member of the group.

Michael Hurd, another TTA organizer, explains that developing the plan begins with envisioning what Asheville might be like in the year 2021 if fossil fuels were phased out and new systems were established instead. From there, a step-by-step timeline is created for bolstering local-food production and distribution, establishing different modes of transportation, integrating alternative-energy systems and relocalizing the economy. The overall design hinges on community involvement, local infrastructure, and tapping into the knowledge and expertise of renewable-energy suppliers, green builders, organic farmers and the like.

The key to making the plan work, noted Hinkley, will be networking with other groups and community members who hold a similar vision. Toward that end, TTA will host a panel to link with other groups that are working toward sustainable goals. Jim Barton, an organizer, describes the initiative as “community-centered and community-created,” and emphasizes the hands-on, do-it-yourself precedent that the group hopes to set.

The panel, entitled “Waking Up: What’s After Oil?” will mark the first time TTA has brought its ideas to a wider audience. It’s scheduled for Thursday, May 10 at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, 1 Edwin Place, and is free and open to the public.

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