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Published on April 29th, 2014 | by Susanna Schick


LABC Sustainability Summit 2014 | A Republican Fights Climate Change

April 29th, 2014 by  

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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About the Author

Susanna is passionate about anything fast and electric. As long as it's only got two wheels. She covers electric motorcycle racing events, test rides electric motorcycles, and interviews industry leaders. Occasionally she deigns to cover automobile events in Los Angeles for us as well. However, she dreams of a day when Los Angeles' streets resemble the two-wheeled paradise she discovered living in Barcelona and will not rest until she's converted the masses to two-wheeled bliss.

  • AMS

    Too bad the rest of the GOP and teabagger nutjobs can’t move past their Fox Bible hyperbole, most seem hellbent on continuing the Party of Stupid tradition they so proudly espouse. They could learn a lot from the mayor of Lancaster.

  • LookingForward

    Some ideas on the top of my head:

    Sahara Forest Project has alot of potential and it’s good for farmers, wateruse and -supply, electricity, reforestation, etc.

    Desalinationplants with solar/wind and storage, they don’t have to be (but could be) the expensive kind for drinkingwater, they can be used to atleast cover farms and forests (reforestation) and have a big impact on drinkingwater suplies.

    Reforestation will be very important for california, shade will keep the ground cooler, which in turn will keep more water in the ground and the air cooler in the longrun and forestfires can be more undercontrol.

    More greenhouses will save on farmland, wateruse, cropyield and state import of fruit and vegetables.

    Those last three are the same as the first 1, but I wanted to name them separatly for there different uses, but I think combining them will be the cheapest (if you look at SFP you know why).
    You will see the revenue not just coming from water or electricity and lose revenue in reforestation, but you will see revenue coming from food, minerals (salt), biofuels, electricity, water, less import and in long run more export and reforestation can be a big important extra.

    Plus 2 which are allready being implemented on large scale: sustainability and renewables.

    This part is for Republicans, conservatives and climatechange-deniers.
    This has to do with the security of the economy, water, energy, food, the people, the whole …. STATE. And you keep the environmentalists and tree huggers happy.
    Now to hope somebody important reads this…

    • susannaschick

      good point. reforestation would be nice. but still, we’d need water to feed those trees… Luckily there’s a LOT we can do before desal, a quote I got directly from an LADWP rep. They are looking at stormwater capture and so much else because it’s all much cheaper than desal, especially along some of the priciest coastal real estate in the world.

      • LookingForward

        Good point. 😛

        But stormwater won’t solve a state wide problem, let alone the whole south and southwest area of the US.

        I read alot about that new desalination plant in Carlsbad, California and it’s able to get “affordable” drinking water out of the ocean.

        I have only 2 problems with that plant, it’s not running on renewables (which would make the water cheaper) and it’s not recycling the brine.

        The SFP gives that option, with a bigger return on investment and the water doesn’t have to be drinkable at that stage, partly it doesn’t even have to be desalted, for the project itself the water just needs to be good enough for farms, greenhouses and reforestation which will make the water even cheaper.

        Below are a couple of possible production paths (maybe I should write a blog about this….:P) plus some extra info.

        1.) seawater –>algae production(biofuels)–>saltwater-cooled greenhouses–>evaporative hedges for outside vegetation–>CSP–>brine to salt production…..path of salt through CSP only.

        2.)seawater–>desalinationplant–>CSP–>brine to salt production… path of salt through desalination and CSP.

        3.)seawater –>algae production(biofuels)–>saltwater-cooled greenhouses–>evaporative hedges for outside vegetation–>CSP–>freshwater for greenhouses, farms and reforestation…path of fresh water by CSP only.

        4.)seawater –>algae production(biofuels)–>saltwater-cooled greenhouses–>evaporative hedges for outside vegetation–>CSP–>water treatment plant… path of drinking water by CSP only.

        5.)seawater–>desalinationplant–>freshwater for greenhouses, farms and reforestation….path of fresh water by desalt only.

        6.)seawater–>desalinationplant—>water treatment plant…path of drinking water by desalt only.

        7.)seawater–>desalinationplant–>CSP–>freshwater for greenhouse, farms and reforestation….path of fresh water by desalt and CSP

        8.)seawater–>desalinationplant–>CSP–>water treatment plant…
        path of drinking water by desalt and CSP.

        9.)seawater–>CSP–>freshwater for greenhouse, farms and reforestation….path of fresh water by CSP directly

        10.)seawater–>CSP–>water treatment plant…
        path of drinking water by CSP directly.

        Paths 1,3,4,9 and 10 are from the SFP, the other paths includes a desalination plant for large scale water desalination.

        Optimally, the desalination plant covers a large region with lots of farms or an highly populated region. The CSP-plant needs to produce enough electricity to atleast cover the desalinationplant, greenhouses and pumps electricity needs, preferably also cover the electricity needs of (part of) the region.

        In this system cheap freshwater is produced for vegetation and affordable drinking water for the population in the area. Which should allready cover the upfront cost and cost of production, more electricity will create more revenue and help with paying off the upfront cost.

        To help with some revenue and stop enviromentalists from beeping they should produce salt in salt evaporation ponds.

        Even though they are not really neccesary, I believe the icing on the cake will be the green, low water-use greenhouses, cropfields and algae farms, they use only a fraction of the water they normally use, partly because of the reuse of wastewater and partly because of the cooling and irregationsystem. They not only produce fruits, vegetables and biofuels, but they also irregate the immediate area, which helps with reforestation during drought.
        Since vegetables, fruit and biofuels create higher revenue then water, electricity and salt, one can create more revenue.

        This system could also create thousands of green jobs if properly implemented on a large scale, keep cropyield high and food imports low.

        Think of what would happen in California if 10 or 20 of these systems where build on a large scale even (partly) without the greenhouses, California could, in time, become water independent.

        Upfront cost will be high, but what is Califonia willing to pay for water and energy independence and not letting it burn to the ground. This is a green, sustainable way to get California wet and letterly green again.

        (this is beginning to sound like a commercial or a campaign running for governor, but I mean what I say, I think California should go for green desalination asap)

    • Gwennedd

      There is one problem with reforestation…fires. California has a bad track record for fires which are fed by the Santa Anas(sp) winds.

      • LookingForward

        Good comment
        But what if you keep the ground/vegetation in the area irrigated?
        The problem in California is you can not use water “unneccesarely” to water the areas around communities and farms, there is simply not enough water, even if the law aloud it, during drought.
        With just 1% of the water processed by a desalination plant you can irrigate 100s of acres and keep them wet enough to make shure they don’t burn to the ground because of forest fires. If those acres of irrigation systems are spread around communities and even farms, that would be a good start of reforestation.
        Also reforestation could start in areas away from dried up trees, like more to the north or in desserts or between roads.
        Unless you think turning everything in California into a dessert is a good idea? 😛

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