Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Money! Really!

OK, now that I've got your attention, I actually do have some free money to help allocate.

I've somehow gotten the honor and opportunity to help advise how Oklahoma City will spend $5.4 million in federal funds on Energy Efficiency and Conservation. There are seven focus areas that we will be preparing strategies for:
1. Building Management and Energy Conservation
2. Transportation and Land Use
3. City Fleet Management
4. Economic Development
5. Environmental Conservation
6. Waste Management; and
7. Advocacy and Outreach

I'm serving as a temporary replacement for the woman who actually serves on this committee, and I know that she's already recommended reserving some money to create an Energy Transition Plan as we come off our fossil fuel high. Brilliant woman!

The money can be used for such diverse activities as building codes and energy audits, energy distribution tech like distributed generation and CHP, material conservation programs, renewable energy on government buildings, energy efficiency programs for gov't buildings, land use policies and transportation programs, and financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements.

The Dept of Energy (our sugar daddy in this situation) encourages us to prioritize programs that:
  • Leverage other public and private resources,
  • Enhance workforce development,
  • Last beyond the funding period, and
  • Promote energy market transformations such as low-cost loans, energy savings performance contracting, advanced building codes, retrofit incentives and policies, and transporation programs and policies.
  • That's a mouthful.
So my question is, as I formulate and refine some strategies: how to best spend this money not just to reduce total energy use / carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency, but also in an effort to increase resiliency, to improve our collective health (OKC is one of the most unhealthy cities in the country), and improve our chances of thriving through the energy descent? Is that too much to ask?

So do you have any innovative ideas, or deceptively simple but devastatingly effective strategies? Bring them on for me to consider and pass along to the PTB! Thanks in advance!


Kate said...

I don't think I have anything that qualifies as devastatingly simple. But if I were given the opportunity to allocate money to build resilience in my own community, I would focus on planting nut trees on public land and making sure they were well distributed around the community. My thinking here is that when the crunch comes, people will find the room on their postage stamp property for vegetables, but trees take a lot of space, and they also take a few years to get up to production.

After that I would be torn between two different projects: either promoting bicycle transport/serious carpooling/some other sustainable transport issue, or developing a community sustainability center which would include facilities for canning and baking in large quantities, a community-sized solar oven, a communal medicinal herb garden (use at your own risk), community bulletin board (jobs, rideshares, tutoring opportunities, barter, gardenshare, etc.), a library of sustainability titles (lots of how-to's and reference books), and of course a welcoming place for low-input socializing. Of course, the (central) location of a sustainability center would be vital.

Those are my thoughts, for what little they're worth.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for bike lanes, sidewalks, better metro transportation (our bus system could still stand improvement). We've got to make it easier for folks to make healthy choices. If it's too hard, people won't do it. I'd love to ride the bus to work, but I'd have to walk a mile or two to the nearest stop, and have you tried to find a route on their website! I can't figure it out at all! Find simple ways to make it easy for people to make good, healthy choices in life and the whole city will benefit.

Aimee said...

I like the community sustainable living center. A small group in my town (bellingham) has created something like this called the center for sustainable living. They teach traditional home-ec arts like food preservation and sewing. However, I'd like to see tutorials on, say, building and running a biodiesel reactor, how to make ethanol, use your compost for heat a greenhouse, etc etc