For the next couple of days I will be in Louisville, working with Christian at Louisville Biodiesel Coop.
Christian is persistent. And stubborn. And a bit of a machine. He once drove from Louisville to Pittsboro, took our Sunday Tour, and drove home. That’s about eighteen hours of windshield time.
I drove to Louisville today. It’s my first time in Kentucky. I’m here to discuss community scale biodiesel with politicians, and academics, and the business community. Christian has booked two solid days of discussions/presentations/book readings etc. He wants this community to hear that community scale biodiesel is feasible.
I dropped the kids at school, drove for 4.5 hours to lunch in Charleston, and made it in time for dinner at his house. His wife Ellen runs Grasshoppers Distribution, which is a local food
business that is gaining national attention.
Two hardcore activists, three kids, a cat and a dog; dinner was bedlam. Just like being at home—except I didn’t have to cook everything. Ellen is delivering 17000 servings of locally grown watermelons to the school lunch program. Louisville Biodiesel Cooperative is more early stage.
After a full day of driving I am strung out and bewildered, but I cannot escape a few observations.
The first is that when you enter Kentucky on I64 you are greeted by a massive Marathon oil refinery. North Carolina has zero refining capability. All of our energy is imported. Kentucky has coal and oil refining, which means they will have energy lobbies the likes of which I have never seen.
Also interesting is that when you are winding through West Virginia and Kentucky, a frequent site on the roads is over sized shipments of wind equipment. A turbine blade here. A nacelle there. Wind equipment ships through these parts.
I was with my brother Glen in Iowa a couple of weeks ago, at my daughter’s wedding, and he pointed out that 20% of Iowa’s electricity is generated from wind. There is a turbine plant in Newton that employs 7000 people. That’s a big company in a state with less than a million residents. We went to a Sunday brunch in which the host’s son is entering the “wind tech” program at Des Moines Area Community College.
In Iowa, your neighbor knows someone who works in the wind business. Wind is part of the new economy there.
In Kentucky biodiesel has yet to take hold. School buses run 1% bio and so everyone calls it a day. “Biodiesel? We’ve already done that.”
Biodiesel will be part of the new economy here as well. In West Virginia there are billboards criticizing the EPA. I suppose the entrenched energy interests still think climate change is about public relations. The reality is “we’re in it.” Sea levels are rising, droughts are intensifying, wildfires are increasing, and disease vectors are spreading. Climate change is no longer something that “is going to happen.” It’s here now. We’re in it. Forget about forestalling it. It’s adaptation time.
My one regret for this trip is that I have run out of copies of Greg Pahl’s latest book, Power from the People. I finished it a few weeks ago on a trip to Arkansas, and I have to say it is my favorite Pahl book to date. In Power from the People he’s edgier. Some of his pure journalistic training fades and he occasionally lets in some hard-hitting opinion.
One of his concepts is that we can’t wait for government. The federal government has demonstrated an inability to act. So have the states. Which means it is time for the people to get busy.
I’ve asked the Abundance Foundation to order a stack of Pahl’s new book. I would like all of my clients to read it.
Because “Power from the People” is what’s happening in Louisville. Ellen is getting local food into the schools. And Christian is bringing biodiesel to bear. Their social capital is palpable (just run an errand with Christian some time), and I have no doubt they will succeed in their respective ventures.
I’m looking forward to rolling up the sleeves tomorrow and going to work…