Solar Powered Festival

Since I happen to be in Washington, DC at the moment, I decided to take time off from work and visit the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s great (and a good excuse to use my Flip video). It was a perfect day for it. Dramatic lighting, courtesy of the clouds. Cherry blossoms from deep pink to white. Kids running around everywhere. Traffic completely jammed.

It struck me that while I’ve been online looking for solar festivals to visit (and blog about) I was standing right in the middle of one of America’s biggest, oldest and most beautiful solar festivals. Fire up those cherry trees, Bucko!

White House to Fire it Up!

In a recent story by the Associated Press the First Family discussed plans for “greening up” the White House — including possible additions to the First Solar Array.

First Family's Array

First Family's Array

Jimmy Carter was the first president to install solar panels on the White House. Ronald Reagan was the first to uninstall solar panels from the White House.

But times change and solar produced electricity re-found it’s groove. Even George W. Bush, a TEXAN who thunk up the nickname “Green green lima beans” to disparage environmentalists, had solar panels installed on the White House. Well, not exactly the White House itself, exactly. More of a, um, toolshed — but it was definitely on the White House grounds, so I think that counts. Not that W. thought so. There was no press announcement of the “event” at the time.

It’s good to hear that the Obamas want to go solar, anyway. I just hope they keep the array small. I wouldn’t want them to take too big a bite out of the government solar funding program.

Texas must be stopped

big-ol-texas1

I understand, Texas. I really do. I mean, to be perfectly honest here for a minute, who among us hasn’t felt the need for a little, uh, compensatory embellishment from time to time, just to get through those, er, rough patches that life sets before us.

See, I get it. You’re number one. “Everything’s bigger in Texas.”

Yeah, ok, whatever, friend.

But, this time — if what I read in the New York Times yesterday is true — you have crossed the line. Big time.

The headline read: Texas Aims for Solar Dominance. See there? Texas wants to control the sun.

The article continued:

The Lone Star State leads the country in wind-power. Now Texas aims to ramp up its solar production too. This week the state senate is considering an avalanche of bills that would boost state incentives for solar power, and the entire legislative session has become known as the “solar session.”

Solar session? Say what?

I read where your legislature is looking at 69 renewable energy bills and more than 50 of them promote solar power.

Poor Texas. Apparently they didn’t get the memo.

In April of 2007, AZ Governor Janet Napolitano called our state  “the Saudi Arabia of solar energy within the United States.” (Cheer up, Texas, you can still be the Kuwait of solar energy.) I heard her on the radio once refer to AZ as “the Silicon Valley of solar” — so, take your pick.

That same month, the state released The Arizona Solar Roadmap (pdf).

I know some were critical of the roadmap, but I think it positions Arizona very nicely to have our official solar roadmap consist of just two words: “Look up.”

Since then, there have been countless (because I don’t have the time to count them) reports, studies and, most importantly, political declarations of the most strenuous kind, naming Arizona as the soon-to-be Solar Capital of the United States of America. (All we have to do is leap-frog ahead of New Mexico and, uh, Portland, Oregon?)

The Texas legislature claims to be considering 50 solar bills. Oh, really — just 50? Listen to what the Steve Arnquist, the interim director of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters told Fireitup when asked to comment on yesterday’s NYT article.

“Well, I would certainly not say that the Arizona Legislature is pushing to make this the ‘Solar Year’ in Arizona as they are in Texas,” said Arnquist. “It is a shame that Arizona is allowing other states to become solar leaders in a time when we, as a state need to be diversifying our energy portfolio, protecting our environment AND creating green collar, energy producing jobs.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Yeah, the Arizona state legislature is a little behind the learning curve on solar stuff,” Arnquist added.

Um, did someone forget to put a down payment or something on this solar capital, Saudi Arabia, Silicon Valley thing?

Evidently.

Part of the problem is that while many other states experienced a “green wave” of environmentally progressive candidates winning seats last November, Arizona missed the wave. Pushing the metaphor a bit further, Arizona’s legislature got caught in the undertow as the green wave receded, carrying off several worthy enviro-legislators.

Non-Partisan Debacle

Green Republicans in both houses lost primary battles to GOP members who believe environmentalism is just socialism with a fig leaf. In State Senate district 1, long-time green elephant Tom O’Halleran lost the primary to Steve Pierce, a conservative anti-regulation rancher with pockets so deep that if he were a Texan he’d have oil wells in them. Being as this is Arizona, Pierce mined those pockets and dumped the money into his own campaign, which ultimately spent close to $300,000 — more than twice as much as any other candidate last year.

O’Halleran, who had earned an 87% approval rating by the AZLCV in 2008, was once praised as “the Senate’s foremost authority on water.” That may sound kinda funny to those of you who live east of the 100th meridian, out where it rains several times a year. Here in the Sonoran Desert, to say that someone is the foremost authority on water is quite the big deal.

Janet, we hardly knew ye!

Meanwhile, back at the governor’s mansion, Janet Napolitano was packing her bags and heading east to join the Obama administration as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Janet Napolitano: Ready on Day One (note camo-jacket)

Janet Napolitano: Ready on Day One (note camo-jacket)

A Democratic governor of a Republican state, Napolitano had an approval rating of 76% as she was heading for the door. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth throughout the land. But she took the %^#@)$* job anyway.

Janet was not as green as many enviros here would have liked. But she also wasn’t from the Plunder & Pillage school of Western Gubernatorial University. (Kinda like a Western version of the Ivy League, only without the ivy.) What she did do was veto P&P bills from the legislature when they’d cross her desk. And that was good. And now she’s gone. And that could be bad.

Our current governor, Jan Brewer, had been Secretary of State in January, and so automatically assumed her new post when Janet left. If there’s an unknown quantity in all of this change, it’s Brewer, a fact which surprised some people here. After 26 years holding a rather ostentatious range of political posts in Arizona (I don’t think Brewer was ever mayor of Happy Jack township in Coconino County, but I wouldn’t put serious money on that), Brewer has an extensive record. I looked through the AZLCV scorecards for the years Brewer was in the Senate and in the House. Brewer had more goose eggs than a goose. I didn’t see a score higher than zero.

And yet, when people assumed she’d pull Arizona out of the Western Climate Initiative (a seven-state plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions), Brewer responded with a “wait and see” stand. Arizona may yet be the first state to drop-out of the WCI. On the other hand, Brewer has to win an election in just a year and a half if she wants to keep her present job. She may be considering that sticking to a path blazed by her enormously popular predecessor is the politically smart choice. Or not.

In the meantime, the AZLCV’s Steve Arnquist says he’s hopeful that Arizona really will become a world player in the new and growing field of solar power.

“People in Arizona want clear air, clean water, jobs and energy independence,” he states.

That’s all well and good. But, as for me, I believe the path to victory lies elsewhere. Jobs, air, water. Good, good, good and yawn. What’s going to get us over the goal-line is the knowledge that someone has got to stop Texas from fulfilling its plan of solar, perhaps intergalactic, domination.

You heard it here first: forget Cylons. Texas is the real threat.