Our board of supervisors recently voted down a renewable energy project ("Supes Deny Controversial Wind Project," Dec. 19). The final Environmental Impact Report for the project showed that, taking into account carbon debt from cutting trees and construction, the anticipated savings would have been about 34 thousand metric tons (kMT) of CO2 per year. The project would have continued to generate power for decades without emitting CO2, but the net savings would have declined as PG&E's electrical mix, theoretically, moves toward renewable energy, assuming renewable energy projects aren't shut down elsewhere.
It is difficult to find a realistic alternative that gives a similar scale of greenhouse gas reductions while spreading the resulting burden relatively evenly across the county. Here's one: Reduce the maximum allowed speed limit in Humboldt County to 55 mph. That's based on an estimate that gasoline usage in Humboldt results in, roughly, 600 kMT of CO2 emissions per year, the guesstimate that about half of our driving is at speeds above 55 mph and the anticipated 10 to 15 percent increase in miles per gallon that a lowered speed limit would bring about, due to reduced wind drag at lower speeds. That gives a savings of 30 to 45 kMT per year, similar in scale to what the wind project would have saved.
We've already agreed, as a county, that we must reduce our emissions. Let's all look for solutions, large and small, but let's not fool ourselves about the scale of what's required. The lower speed limit would add about five minutes to 30-mile trips along U.S. Highway 101 or State Route 299. Assuming we're sincere about finding a local response to the planetary emergency now evident to most of us, shouldn't we all agree to lowered countywide highway speed limits? And if even that is too painful, why bother pretending we want to address the problem?
Mitch Trachtenberg, Trinidad
Now that the divisive Terra-Gen project is behind us, perhaps it would be wise for leaders in Humboldt and Del Norte counties to take proactive steps to avoid this sort of conflict in the future. No. 1 on that list would be a process involving all segments of our communities to identify sites where we would like to see solar and wind energy developed.
Additionally, we should insist that any such developments are completed in a manner that allows for local power to continue to be supplied from local sources when power is turned off to other parts of California due to wildfire risk or for any other reason. That's known as "distributed power" and it makes good security sense for the North Coast.
Working together, we can create a safe and sustainable North Coast power grid. All that's required to make it happen is real leadership.
Felice Pace, Klamath
I attended the board of supervisors' session on Terra-Gen to add my support for the Wiyot. I came away with great respect for the effort the supervisors made to grapple with the issue and come to their best judgment, for the Wiyot who stood resolutely in their truth, for the 270 community members who spoke passionately and for Terra-Gen for moving us many steps forward in the awareness of what it will take to prioritize climate decisions.
We can't afford to rest. We need a forum where the ideas that were shared — valuable ideas, ways to move toward climate independence and justice and curb our waste of energy — are reviewed. We can't afford to let those ideas and the energy in those sessions be lost. We will need much — grants to promote wise energy use, a plan for seriously expanding solar and micro grids, and much more. The supervisors intend to hold strategy hearings and called for a task force but we also need real community involvement. Perhaps a community-based working group to report to the task force? And we must find the right way to prioritize the voices and wisdom of our tribes. We need to be clear that biomass energy puts toxins into the environment. How do we come together now to move forward?
Lynn Robbins, Eureka