Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Eclectic Power," Good Ideas From Mike Bloomberg and Some Suggestions

The best approach to energy independence is "all of the above". I like to call it "eclectic power". Paris Hilton made a lot of sense in her famous video response to the McCain political ad when she supported both off shore drilling and alternative energy sources. Mayor Bloomberg made a suggestion to set up windmills throughout New York City to lessen our oil usage. I am in a very cynical mood and hate to pass up a chance to make fun of our mayor, but Bloomberg is right. New York has wind and New York has thousands of acres of open rooftop that are good for more than just late night keg parties. Mike Bloomberg wants to harness the wind to create electric power. He has also made moves towards phasing in solar paneling in city buildings.
In my opinion, Bloomberg could go further. There should be tax incentives for private homeowners and businesses to "go green" and use wind or solar power. The city could even utilise its massive buying power to make such technology available to homeowners. Tax breaks could provide incentives to help homeowners stay afloat until the savings from a "green" investment kick in.
A new growth field is the production of reusable shopping bags. Some of these bags look very attractive. They present opportunities for advertising and fashion statements. Supermarkets could even have bar codes on the bags to reward customers who bring in reusable bags. What I like about these approaches is that they appeal to motives of profit, of vanity and of altruism. Eclectic power can be sold to environmentalists one way and to those whose predominant motive is national security and energy independence in a different way. Currently, the only incentives in New York City to aid the environment are negative. The city has made a growth industry out of recycling tickets. This has the effect of creating an adversarial relationship between the government and citizens who resent losing a days pay over a small infraction. Even if the change is slower, the changes in behavior that come from education are more profound and long lasting than coercive measures.
There is much to be said for an approach that puts government and the people on the same side. Speaking to people in a manner that presupposes a better nature brings out their better nature. This is true in families. It is true in business and in government as well. People should be addressed on these important issues in a respectful manner. Most people, whether they are billionaires like Bloomberg or blue collar workers struggling from paycheck to paycheck think of their immediate and long term interests. Identifying these needs among the tax paying and voting public should shape energy policy and the public education necessary to implement it.
During World War Two, there was a sense of enthusiasm and empowerment as the public worked together on everything from paper drives and victory gardens to saving tin cans and rubber. The sense that one's individual choices and actions can be of public benefit needs to be reinforced. This can and should be done as a partnership of caring citizens and not the begrudging subjects of a nanny state.
New York, despite being a one party system in four of its five boros is still an exciting place to watch and in which to live. Despite recent setbacks in crime reduction, New York has taught the world much about law enforcement. It would be of great benefit for our creative metropolis to blaze a path in energy independence.
Mayor Bloomberg has built a communications empire. His approval ratings have been consistently high. He has invested his money and his political capital with wisdom. His proposals for alternative energy sources would be to his benefit and that of the country. Despite my past and current disagreements with his philosophy of governance, he has earned my wholehearted support for his latest cause. In this area, I applaud his vision and creativity and hope his dream becomes a reality.
Click here to read article about Bloomberg's wind power proposals( from CBS)

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