Short Sea Shipping, Locomotives in Sac and Crowdfunding Goes Mainstream

“Short Sea Shipping”. Now try saying THAT three times in quick succession.

However it comes out, short sea shipping has been talked about as a potential use for Humboldt Bay Harbor for at least the several years that I’ve been following the rail/bay/train situation. At their July 31 meeting, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group hosted a presentation by Stas Margaronis on “Trucking by Water:  Potential of a Humboldt-Stockton Container Ship Service”.  Mr. Margaronis is an energetic speaker and is the publisher of  his own website, Rebuild the US, and is the founder of Santa Maria Shipping and Trucking, as referred to on the website as a startup. Stockton is home to or near to many Central Valley distribution centers and is 75 miles from Oakland by water.

Harbor Commissioner RIchard Marks provided a good writeup on his blog, Samoa Softball, so I won’t repeat his excellent reporting. I would just add that a number of folks from SoHum showed up, apparently supporting any alternative to trucking on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The opponents of the Richardson Grove realignment and the Willits bypass heard Magaronis explain that one ship can replace 120 trucks but a kind of pall fell over the crowd when he mentioned LNG as a possible fuel for these ships (as opposed to diesel). It hasn’t been that long since our last LNG trauma and it’s pretty clear to me that LNG is a non-starter, even when confined to ship fuel lines, in this community.  He also mentioned our lack of a pier (cost: $10-15M). Anyway, whether you call it short-sea shipping or the marine highway, it’s a hard concept to be against assuming the freight is available. The potential for well-paying jobs is clearly there. Kudos to the HBHWG for another thought -provoking program.

LOCOMOTIVES- like any train nut, I look forward to RailPAC’s newsletter, Steel Wheels. The current issue reminds us that, although there are those in Humboldt who seem to think that railroads are a thing of the past, railroads are thriving in other areas. Siemens, the German mega-corporation, is building 70- that’s 70-energy-efficient locomotives for AMTRAK at its solar-powered plant in Sacramento.  This project will involve 69 suppliers in 23 states and 61 cities and will replace aging locomotives with state-of-the-art imodels that are expected to conserve  3Bkwh of energy by using such innovations as regenerative braking, which  can feed up to 100% of the energy generated during braking back to the power grid. Personally I am delighted that this huge investment has come to Sacramento, which has been a train town since they knocked in the Golden Spike. Hopefully there will be follow-on orders, as this first fleet is all-electric and designed for the Northeast corridor.  Hopefully Siemens can produce a passenger diesel and other products to keep foreign investment and good jobs coming in to the West Coast..

CROWDFUNDING- Those of you who supported local artist Peter Santino’s Kickstarter campaign have heard that the funding was successful and we can expect to receive our books in December. It occurred to me the other day that Eureka has a long and honorable history in crowdfunding; the Eureka Inn was originally financed by pledges from 750 citizens who felt the city needed a good hotel.  Seth Geddes’ project Fund Humboldt has taken off flying.  The Economist reported recently that in 2013 THREE BILLION DOLLARS will be crowdfunded of which about a sixth will be donations, without promise of equity or products. Crowdfunding is happening everywhere from Chile to Finland and could eventually provide an avenue by which citizens can decide how they would like their tax moneys to be spent.  Sounds good to us.

Finally,  a happy note for those of us who were English majors; the UK’s new ten pound note will feature  novelist Jane Austen,  a woman who wrote about money and its effect on families like no one else ever has. Sony is about to release Austenland,  a film about Austen  fans. Congratulations, Jane. It’s about time.

The Power of Showing Up, Lost Credibility and Railroad News

The Power of Showing Up-Have you ever been to a school board meeting? I hadn’t until the special meeting on July 11, ostensibly to discuss the “Future of the Eureka High School Automotive Program.” I learned a few things.

One thing I learned is that NO ONE SHOWS UP at the typical school board meetings, at least the Eureka City Schools board meetings. There were about 70 people in attendance; typically they get half a dozen. Another thing I learned was that the ECS officials in attendance (Van Vleck, Olson and Eagles) had no intention of engaging in a real discussion. Van Vleck presented a PowerPoint show to convince the crowd that the current curriculum could not be sustained. He was so desperate to make his point that he actually presented the results of a KINS telephone poll in support of his position. I learned that there is a vast range of competence and conscientiousness among the five members of this particular board.

When it came to community input, we were limited to three minutes each. The speakers included graduates of the program, and representatives of many local dealerships. As it got close to 10pm, it seemed that the tide had turned, the Board members were making plans for a followup meeting on the next Friday and I went home. The only two elected officials in attendance, Marian Brady and Rex Bohn, stayed until the bitter end, bless their hearts. You could have knocked me over with a  blackboard eraser when I read in the next day’s  paper that the Friday meeting was off and a 3-2 vote had been taken to close the program. I don’t know who did what to who to finally end up, a couple of days later, with a compromise that essentially saved the program but I learned a third valuable lesson:  DON’T LEAVE EARLY.  The bureaucrats have all the time in the world and they can wait till the wee hours of the morning if need be, to get their way.  You’d think I would have learned by now.  I should mention that Mr. John Fullerton was consistently clearheaded and effective in moving things along. Let’s hope the message has been received that the taxpayers, stakeholders and students want the program. As Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  If that crowd hadn’t shown up,  the program would be gone for sure. 

Lost Credibility-  “Reputation is a bubble” as the saying goes, or maybe a balloon that, once popped, cannot be reconstructed.  Just about everyone in the County has weighed in on the Dan Johnson debacle. I expect to hear any day now that the President, both Popes and Jay-Z have issued statements. The point is that NO ONE is defending Mr.  Johnson’s actions. The best that his friends can do is point out that he has made charitable contributions, as any major businessperson in the county does. Well, good for him. However, the idiocy he demonstrated in believing that he,  and only he, could read and recall a letter that was published in Newsweek and probably a dozen other publications is profound and calls into question his basic judgment. It takes a certain type of megalomania to do what he did.

I thought of that during the Healy Brothers Building block party: Mr. Kramer celebrating another excellent project, Mr. Johnson hiding from his constituents and issuing snarky non-apologies.  We need maturity in our civic leaders. Please consider running for the school boards in your area. Our kids need you.

The Train –as you probably know the $20K study by the folks in Washington state concluded that the EastWest route(s) are not viable and would cost over a billion to construct, even if a clear strategy for its use were developed.  This brings us back to where we were in the beginning, with the North-South route costing somewhat less but more importantly, offering transportation for the cargo we know is available- tourists. Tourists to fill our hotels.  Tourists to rent cars and go on tours and excursions and swing around in the treetops. As anyone who has ever ridden the train down to San Rafael will tell you, the train ride through the Eel River Canyon could easily be one of the major tourist attractions on the West Coast. A different aspect of the rairoad issue will be the subject of the Harbor Working Group’s July meeting, which takes place Wednesday noon at the Samoa Cookhouse and will feature a talk on the possibility of shipping between here and Stockton. (Click on “Community Forums”.)  These meetings are always interesting. ‘Nuff said.  

What Can the RCEA Do For Your Redwood Coast Business?

Looking for ways to control energy costs? Cut down waste? Conserve resources? You have an ally in your struggle and you may not even know it.  Meet the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.  Their excellent website contains more information than we can squeeze in here,  but their amazing array of services may make them your business’s new best friend.

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the County, the  Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad. Their purpose is “to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region.”  Who pays for it?  California utility customers and the program is administered by PG&E and the state Public Utilities Commission. Lots of players, but all you need to do to get started is submit their online application or visit their new local office at 633 3rd Street in Eureka, or call them at 269-1700. Here are some of the services they offer:

-Replacing  your old light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent lights, and replacing your old neon “OPEN” sign with a more efficient LED model.

-Assessing your business’s lighting, refrigeration, process equipment, heating and ventilating systems and other energy-saving opportunities at your business.  They will even generate a report with available incentives,  recommendations and a financial summary.

-They can hook you up with start-to-finish project management, incentives paid directly to contractors, assistance with zero-interest financing of your utility bill, negotiated discounts with qualified contractors, and more. Did I mention that all these services are FREE or at REDUCED COST?

You can get started by visiting the office at 633 Third Street in Eureka, by calling them at (707) 269-1700 or by submitting this form by email or snailmail. Be sure to save the form to your computer before you fill it out.  Their email address is info@redwoodenergy.org.

The RCEA is involved in many other projects including developing a Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy for the county, also available on the website. They are coordinating the North Coast Plug-in Electrical Vehicle Project  to promote and develop greater use of “PEV”‘s in the area, in which there is enormous interest  (checked gas prices lately?) and are working with the HSU Schatz Energy Research Center, GHD and PG&E to this end. They have also received a $1.75M grant from the State to be used for a biomass power system on the Blue Lake Rancheria,  energy upgrades throughout the Mad River Valley and infrastructure for those PEV’s (charging stations)!

These projects will have enormous impact on our lives and how we do business. Take advantage of these programs and get involved. You’ll be glad you did.

Plan It Green 2012- the Adaptation Conference

 

You’ve probably seen these posters around town but may not have realized that there are folks right here in our community and elsewhere on the North Coast who are actively engaged in addressing the critical issues of climate change, the exhaustion of resources such as cheap oil,and the economic uncertainties in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,  all of which will affect our planet and the world in which our children will grow up.

These local activists will team with others from near (Mendocino) and far (there will be live webcasts with Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and with Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook-from oil dependence to local resilience) to discuss their research and findings on the development of strategies and technologies that will build resiliency into our future.  In-person guests include Richard Heinberg, , leading national energy expert, Senior Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and the author of ten books including The End of Growth.

You can hear from these world-class experts and exchange ideas with many others at this year’s Plan It Green conference, the most ambitious yet. The symposiums and webcasts begin the evening of Thursday, July 19 and continue all the next day at Humboldt State. On Saturday the action moves to the Arcata Community Center, with the Annual Trade Show where over 40 exhibitors  are expected with information, goods and services related to home energy systems, building trades, transportation, food production and home furnishings and products PLUS the “Wheels of Change” auto mall featuring a variety of alternative-fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles.  The Saturday events are free and open to the public, the Conference has a TOP price of $49 which includes lunch and a 2GB thumb-drive containing the Community Resilient Toolkit, including a 120-page workbook and extensive digital resources.

There will be much more going on than we have space here so for more information and tickets visit the website   http://www.AdaptationConference.org                             This is important. Don’t miss it!