Alternative Energy and Economic Development
Salinas’ pitch to bring prestigious Rocky Mountain Institute to town.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue wants to bring in esteemed environmental consultation group Rocky Mountain Institute to evaluate how the Salinas Valley can move toward alternative energy and develop green-collar jobs. “I want to look at how we go green, how we become sustainable in a substantial way, not a symbolic way,” Donohue says. Rocky Mountain Institute, led by energy-efficiency guru Amory Lovins, would develop a plan for the valley to reduce its carbon footprint and trigger economic development. “For instance, if this valley is better suited for wind opportunities rather than solar opportunities,” Donohue says, “I think we want to understand from our economic development standpoint what are the things we have to do to get ready to pursue those.” Institute staff would visit the valley, meet with city leaders and create the report. But Jeffrey Weir, Salinas’ economic development director, says the city is still trying to pull together funding for the assessment, which would cost about $45,000. Weir says he will make a request to the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority board on Aug. 21 to fund half the cost. Salinas will also ask other South County cities and the Community Foundation for Monterey County to chip in. If the city receives funding, the institute would give the expansive agricultural region a glimpse into how it can address daunting challenges of climate change. Salinas is already a signatory of the U.N. Urban Environmental Accords and the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Local governments will also have to curtail carbon emissions under California law AB 32. Plus, unprecedented gas prices are pushing the nation as a whole to find sustainable energy sources. “We are looking at the possibility of a wholesale change in how our country thinks about energy,” Donohue says, “and I contend our valley can be right in the center of it.”