What a difference a year makes. In the spring of 2009, Governor Rick Perry famously suggested that Texas could secede from the United States, and he rejected federal money meant to recharge the state’s unemployment fund. Fast forward to this summer, and the state’s capital city Austin is busy installing high efficiency fluorescent light bulbs at its Palmer Event Center as part of a $7.5 million municipal energy efficiency project funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The federally funded Palmer project alone is expected to save Austin taxpayers $21,501 annually in energy costs. That’s just one of seven municipal facilities that will be retrofitted with new energy efficient light bulbs funded by the federal Recovery Act within the next few weeks, with as many as 16 other buildings slated for other efficiency upgrades.
Austin Energy, Federal Grants, Solar Energy and Green Jobs, Too
Austin Energy, the utility that serves Austin, estimates that the efficiency upgrades combined with other projects could save the city more than 5 million kilowatt hours per year, while also adding about 100 green jobs to the economy. Those other projects – all involving federal Recovery funds – include installing biogas generators to reclaim and reuse methane gas at a sludge treatment facility. The utility also administers more than 4 megawatts of solar energy through hundreds of customer-owned solar installations.
The Emerging Green Economy
According to Austin Energy’s website, local enthusiasm for solar energy has translated into an economic engine for the city, giving rise to 35 solar installation companies and about 300 green jobs, too. Compare that to fossil fuel’s growing record of economic damage: on top of the Gulf oil spill, this week’s latest calamities – another oil spill on the Louisiana coast, and one of the biggest oil spills in Midwest history into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River – are enough to give you the impression that America is under siege from within, especially when you combine oil with the devastation caused by coal mining and natural gas drilling. If there’s any more talk about secession, seceding from fossil fuels and ramping up our use of cleaner, safer energy sources would be a more productive place to focus on.
Image: Austin, Texas by StuSeeger on flickr.com.
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