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LABC Sustainability Summit 2014 | A Republican Fights Climate Change

Parris on Solar sm

Parris shows the nearby Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal plant.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Business Council hosted their 8th annual Sustainability Summit. California Governor Jerry Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti presented keynote speeches on the major topics in California- Energy and Water. Mayor Garcetti gave an excellent speech highlighting some of the work he’s doing to make LA more sustainable. Governor Brown, the grandfather of sustainability in California politics, had some bad news for us. Well, it wasn’t exactly “news” but it’s bad. It’s about the water. We’re really SOL. At this point, he said, we can’t just do one big thing to fix the drought. We have to do everything. Conserve, recycle, change laws, find new sources. Or else Parable of the Sower will indeed come true. In Los Angeles, we’re cleaning up our contaminated aquifers to be able to put them to use. The LADWP recently held a public hearing asking for ideas on stormwater capture, as we all recognize the need to store stormwater in our depleted aquifers instead of in the ocean where our current system sends it all.

In Northern California, they’re wondering why we all still have lawns down south. Yes, we need to stop wasting water on decorative things, but it’s a tiny portion of California’s total water use. It’s our energy sources and our farms that use the most, by far.  We’re moving rapidly toward less water-intensive energy like solar and wind, but what about the farms? We can’t get rid of the wineries, or even the almond orchards. Those require California’s climate and are part of the state’s identity. Plus they don’t use nearly as much water as other farm products.

While Tesla has to look to other states for land cheap enough to build their battery factories, California has the largest cattle ranch on the west coast, Harris Ranch, boasting 100,000 methane-producing cattle squeezed into 800  acres to produce 150,000,000 pounds of beef per year. Cows drink anywhere from 3 to 60 gallons per day, so many ranches are selling their cattle off to ranches in wetter states. Meanwhile, other ranchers wait for the drought to “break”. That would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Cattle ranching, especially overcrowded factory farms, no longer belong in California.

From “Agricultural Water Use in CA, 2011” which fails to show water use from utilities.

A Republican Fighting Global Warming

The star of the show, however, was Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris. Looking like a textbook mayor from some dusty town in the wild, wild west, he brought the house down. Since starting office in 2008, he’s not only driven the crime rate down, but spurred economic growth to the dusty bedroom community partly through exploiting the region’s excellent solar radiation. Parris stated that Lancaster has the 5th greatest solar capacity in the state and is #1 per capita. His goal is to make Lancaster the first net zero city. He also stated the city is second only to Walmart in megawatts of solar installed.

solar lottery sm

Mayor Parris also called out his fellow Republicans in a set of slides showing how Americans are politically divided on the subject of global warming. He explained that his town is very conservative, but that it’s not about them. It’s about their grandkids. He also used his cancer diagnosis as an analogy. When he was diagnosed, he couldn’t see or feel the effects, but he trusted his doctor, let him administer treatment, and the cancer was put into remission. He said it’s the same thing with global warming. We may not see the impact in our own backyards, but the smart thing to do is trust the experts and do what they say.

“Obama can do a lot of things, but I grant building permits.”

Mayor Parris has fast-tracked the permitting process for all manner of green building projects. The one he highlighted is a partnership between BYD and KB Homes for green homes. BYD are also building electric busses in Lancaster, and delivering on schedule. Parris explained that Mayors and Governors have a lot more power in curbing climate change as long as Washington engages in stalemates. What’s exciting about this is that Lancaster was always the place where poor people moved to be able to have big homes for big families. This means a 2-3 hour drive or bus ride to work in Los Angeles for most of them, as there’s no rail service to Antelope Valley. Historically, there weren’t many jobs there. When I started racing at Willow Springs Raceway in 2002, Lancaster was a nothing of a town where the flea-bitten motels were less frightening than the ones in Rosamond. Now there’s a vibrant downtown with nice restaurants, cycling infrastructure, galleries, an art museum. It was a very pleasant shock to see how much downtown Lancaster had changed. I don’t think there even was a downtown 10 years ago.

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Written By

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. Which is why she's now based in Barcelona, Spain and happy to live in a city moving rapidly toward complete freedom from cars. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, urban mobility, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders.


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