We can act Now

Winter is upon in the East, and this weekend will be lots of snow and cold. Many complain at this time of year, but I wonder, winter for me, is a time to slow down, to think more about whether or not I want to drive, and just to be.

A dear friend sent me this article in the New York Times on Kristianstad. The city has crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels. It generates its energy from biogas, a form of methane, using all of its waste products from agriculture, its landfills and so forth, to generate its energy. Kirstianstad didn’t create a new industry, it closed the loop, although a significant infrastructure investment was initially required, Kristianstad has gone further, harnessing biogas for an across-the-board regional energy makeover that has halved its fossil fuel use and reduced the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by one-quarter in the last decade.

The start-up costs of the centralized biomass heating system cost $144 million, including constructing a new incineration plant, laying networks of pipes, replacing furnaces and installing generators. The payback has already been significant: the city now saves approximately $4 million each year to heat its municipal buildings rather than it would spend if it still relied on oil and electricity. If the costs of GHG emissions was factored into its savings, they would be even more each year, as we are still far away from having the real costs of production included into the costs of doing business.

So what is stopping us, why do the United States and Canada at the national level drag their feet and resist embracing what is clearly the emerging new economy and social innovation of the future? Reduce your input costs, control your output costs, both of which are going to become increasingly more expensive, now and get a jump start on your competitors.

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