Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 10, 2007


Host:

Sustainability Special


  • This HORIZON special focuses on stories that promote sustainability, such as renewable energy, Maricopa County particle control and Pinal County growth.
Guests:
  • Sir Crispin Tickell - Policy Foresight Program, Oxford University
Category: Sustainability

View Transcript
Larry Lemons:
Tonight on "Horizon" from the focus on research and
Renewable energy to taking down pollution, these are some of the issues related to sustainability in this "Horizon" special edition.

>>>
Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>>
Larry Lemmons:
Good evening. Thank you for joining us for this "Horizon" special edition. You've probably heard the word sustainability used nowadays. It could encompass the concepts of planned growth or technological advances. To begin our show, we'll hear a definition of sustainability from Sir Crispin Tickell of the Policy Foresight Program in Oxford University and Charles Redmond of ASU's school of sustainability.

>>
Sir Crispin Tickell:
Sustainability usually has an even more vague phrase, sustainable development. When I was running the British panel of sustainability development for six years, we had difficulty in explaining ourselves. I remember hearing while I was on a radio program someone saying what it really means is treating the earth as if you intended to stay. I think that's a good way of doing it. It means looking forward to future generations without losing sight of the problems in current generations and seeing something as continuous, facing problems, reacting to them, redirecting itself and generally looking to the future and making the most count in the present.

>>Larry Lemmons:
We have a college of sustainability at ASU, a relatively new college, could you talk about why that's come into existence.

>>Charles Redman:
Just following that idea, obviously sustainability is something that can be important to everyone. Here at ASU and particular under the leadership of President Crow, we've adopted this across the university to be a new way of thinking to follow up to confront the problems of today but in the context of understanding the way we respond could affect future generations and we have to do so in a carefully understood way. In a way sustainability to me is doing the right thing, and doing the right thing in the context alive today and the people that will be alive in the future. This seems like an absolutely appropriate domain for ASU to engage in every way. We've established a school unique in the United States that will be giving undergraduate and graduate degrees in sustainability and we're trying to work with all of the colleges and schools already at ASU to infuse sustainability into their curriculum and collaboration to work with the community.

>>Larry Lemmons:
You said the new way of thinking; would it be possible to define the old way of thinking? The way we've been operating and why that's not necessarily sustainable?

>>Sir Crispin Tickell:
What I think -- my response to the question that you asked which is what is the difference? In the past, we've been having a partial view of economics. We haven't the economics of the past have been looking much more to profits, fair enough. The present, fair enough, but not taking sufficient account in the future. That's the difference. I believe that the year 2007 is a very important year because of the sudden realization of the -- I can explain why, of the sudden realization that current thinking particularly about economics are really no longer viable.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Please, go ahead. Continue.

>> Sir Crispin Tickell:
If you take the way in which you discard the future as well as the things that's been most important, and all of this was investigated by a treasury economist in Britain called Sir Nicholas Stern. He took the subject of the economics of climate change. Using climate change as his main theme, he explained the science, what was happening in the world. He then said if in fact we continued as we were, the costs of what we were doing would be immensely higher than if we changed our way. The stern report, as it's called, has really changed a lot of things, because he's brought economics into the heart of the discussion about the environment. When it happened in Beijing last November, even the Chinese have heard about it seven days after it was published. It was obviously and still is a very influential report. The economics of climate change which in a way means also the economics of the environment generally needs an approach in which you include externalities and the true cost of doing things. It means you have to look at the profits. That means qualifying straight market capitalism. A lot of people don't want to confront that.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Recently two dozen top-notch students took part in a conference in Arizona State University regarding renewable energy. The students, some of whom are in a career for renewable energy took steps towards producing renewable energy.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Twenty-nine college students from all over the country take part in a tour at Arizona falls, an historic recreational area in east Phoenix. These students aren't here to recreate. There's a hydroelectric generator at the falls that provides power for 150 nearby homes. The students are taking part in a one-week sustainable energy project sponsored by Salt River Project in conjunction with Duke, Michigan, and Cornell universities.



>>Jay Golden:
This is part of a multiple field trip. We have 29 students in the country, best and brightest students. We had a tremendous amount of applicants. They're primarily focused on engineering, life sciences, biosciences and business. And we're exposing them to conventional energy, renewable energy sources and materials and technology that has reduce energy demand. This is supplemented by today we had the president of Americas for shell flying in to speak to the students. We had the vice president for ford motor company coming in to speak to the students today. We're trying to get a broad picture and holistic picture that the students participating here will be the students that not only invent the next generation of materials for generation and production but also those that run organizations and invest in organizations.

>>>Mike Sauceda:
One of the participating students is Kellan Dickens who just graduated from Duke in a degree in mechanical engineering.

>> Kellan Dickens:
It's been an intense couple days so far. We visited a number of different facilities including a solar facility, natural gas facility and methane facility run by salt water project and then this hydroelectric plant. In each facility, we've seen kind of an up-close and personal inner workings on how they produce in type of energy.

>>Mike Sauceda:
Hayley Fink is a senior in Harvard and is majoring in earth and planetary sciences. She's learned a lot from the field trips.

>>Hayley Fink:
You can hear about the technologies and lectures. You can read about it. When you actually see it, it really makes so much more sense. You have the opportunity to talk to the experts, the people actually working there on the ground on a day-to-day basis and really get a grasp of the problems they're dealing with and what the benefits of the technologies are.

>>Mike Sauceda:
She says the conference has covered more than just the technical end of renewable energy.

>>Hayley Fink:
I'm so psyched to be here. When I found out I got into the program, I was so excited. My professor sent out a blurb about it. I went to the web site. I looked at their program. It was amazing, because it really looked at the problem of sustainability from so many different aspects. You know, economics, politics, the technologies, the most cutting-edge research they're doing. Business sector. So I just -- I mean, I'm so interested in this topic, and I know I definitely want to make a career out of it.


>>Richard Ruelas:
Joining me to talk about renewable energy is Cheri Olf, the program director of the American Council on Renewable Energy from Washington, D.C. You're a presenter at the fellowship. Thank you for joining us this evening.

>> Cheri Olf:
Thank you for having me.

>>Richard Ruelas:
It seems like there's a lot of progress being made just by having these students spending this time here. Tell me a bit about what they're learning.

>>Cheri Olf:
It's momentous. We have this group of students representing four of A-Core's members' schools. They had to compete for membership in this program. Our congratulations go out to the students that achieved this. We're thrilled to have them here this week learning about sustainable energy and how they could further their career.

>>Richard Ruelas:
It seems as society seems to be embracing the idea more, what do you attribute to people, I guess these students might be telling their friends and telling their parents but it seems like society is embracing the idea of renewable energy a little bit more.

>>Cheri Olf:
Yes, it's happening. You know, the films and the documentaries that have been out in the last few years have definitely helped that I think people feel it's the right thing to do.

>>Richard Ruelas:
The gas prices too?

>>Cheri Olf:
Gas prices are definitely an influence for sure, yeah, especially in the purchase of hybrid cars.

>>Richard Ruelas:
What are some of the barriers? You think if there's a demand out there, the market would fill it, but what are some of the barriers to the marketplace just suddenly providing with us renewable sources?

>>Cheri Olf:
The issues that the market are facing right now aren't all negative. They're positive, but some of the challenges we have right now are costs, as always, with the new technology. There are issues of costs with the technology. As we absorb or recoup the cost of the research and development phases of these technologies, that will start to subside a bit, the cost. And the second thing that we really need for the renewable fee to be adopted and the technologies to provide us this renewable power, we really need stabilization of public policy to occur.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Arizona just passed a mandate that electric companies here will provide, I believe it's 20\% of their energy from solar power. Is that the kind of thing you're talking about?

>>Cheri Olf:
Yes, we're talking about it on a federal level. You know, congress has been in long support of old technologies, fossil fuel technologies. On the new technology side, the renewable energy, we have these limits. Sunset clubs, for instance, which hinder companies from bringing projects to market on the time frames that are best for the industry and for America. They have to follow these time frames that the policies have dictated.

>>Richard Ruelas:
Meaning if you want to build say a solar plant in Arizona, the government is giving us a window in which to do so?

>>Cheri Olf:
Exactly for production tax credit. So, you know, there's these companies having to lobby to get the credits extended so basically, what we're looking for with a core is to educate the industry and young people like this so we can have the technologies ready when congress comes up to speed and helps us by making these credits more readily available.

>>Richard Ruelas:
I guess that's part of it with the young people we saw on that piece. There's going to be thoughts in their heads that down the line maybe they figure out the better way to produce hydrogen cell or solar cell? Is that part of the thought process?

>>Cheri Olf:
Yeah, exactly. On the positive side, there's no negatives to renewable energy. The people are flocking to the industry. There are thousands if not millions of jobs that'll be available in the renewable field, renewable fields within the next five years.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Now the county board of supervisors recently commissioned a report to see what the best strategy would be to plan for growth in the county. The report was completed by ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Christina Estes will tell us more about the report, but first, here are six goals that were determined in the future at Pinal report.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Pinal county's leaders and residents focused on six place-making goals. First, to distinguish Pinal county from Maricopa and pima counties to protect miles of desert and open land, to provide choices for transportation and mobility, to support unique, fair share communities, to create and attract career pay, career path jobs and to develop Pinal's talent pool.

>>Christina Estes:
Joining me now to talk about the report is the associate vice president for economic affairs at ASU and the president of the Morrison Institute Rob Melnick. Thank you so much for joining us. Let's start before we talk specifically about the report. Why don't you share with us who helped you create the report? You didn't just make this up on your own. You talked to people.

>>Rob Melnick:
We used a variety of techniques that we use in reports like this. This one included 50 intense one-on-one interviews with a variety of leaders in the county, civic, business and government leaders throughout the entire geography of the county and also survey of random sample survey of 600 residents of Pinal county throughout the county that were representative of what the county thinks. We also used documentation, a research looking at other counties, looking at Pinal County's history and their plans as well.

>>Christina Estes:
What surprised you most in the research?

>>Rob Melnick:
The things that surprised me most, no matter where we went geographically in the county -- and there are three distinctly different population centers -- there were the same aspirations for the future and the same concerns for the president as well for the future. No matter if we asked people in Florence or Apache Junction or people in Casa Grande, they seemed to have a common center of gravity, a common concern about what they didn't want to become and a common aspiration for what they did want to become. We thought that was positive actually.

>>Christina Estes:
What you said over and over was basically they don't want to become Maricopa or Pima County. What's wrong with Tucson or phoenix?

>>Rob Melnick:
Their concern wasn't on not being Pima or Maricopa but being lost in between. Being something indistinguishable from one place or the other. They also fear the sense of the big city, the issues, the crime, the congestion that goes with any large city. Their concern was both with respect to what they didn't want to become and also what they did want to become which is something that was special, something that was distinctive and something that matched the heritage of that place.

>>Christina Estes:
And some of the ways you say to become special include protecting deserts and open land. You used the word, green print. What does that mean?

>>Rob Melnick:
Green print means essentially identifying those areas that have the greatest potential for being set aside for various reasons. It would be environmentally either sensitive or not appropriate for development for one reason or another that would actually lay out on a map physically the areas that would be best to be kept green. That's something that is a real important value to the people who live in Pinal County. A sense of both agricultural and rural heritage but also a sense of the importance of conservation and how that contributes to their desirable lifestyle that they've chosen.

>>Christina Estes:
How about transportation? Big issue everywhere across the state. How do folks feel in Pinal County?

>>Rob Melnick:
Transportation is the number one issue of concern to people in Pinal County. They know they've got a problem because the backbone that goes from Tucson to phoenix. I-10 wasn't built for the number of people that it has to deal with. A lot of people in Pinal County have jobs in Pima and Maricopa County. That's a problem. Also the feeder routes are a problem. Population growth is stripping our ability to pour the concrete fast enough.

>>Christina Estes:
One of the suggestions, possibilities, creating a three-county transportation group. How realistic is that? Maricopa is a lot bigger and has more money. Don't you think they kind of overpower?

>>Rob Melnick:
That'll be tough. It would take an awful lot of political will to create a tri-county, if you will authority. Indeed, there might be some big dog kinds of problems there. The flip side is also problematic. Pinal, although it certainly has its own political capabilities, the fact of the matter is, it's much more difficult in my opinion to think about three separate county authorities that are somehow going to match up in the best interest of the entire state where the metropolitan or as we call it now the megapolitan region as opposed to one group that would sit down and be fair for what is best for everyone involved. The future of Pinal also affects the future of Pima and Maricopa as well.

>>Christina Estes:
What about education and jobs? A lot of folks are working in Maricopa and Pima. What are you going do about that?

>>Rob Melnick:
Our recommendation is as the county moves into its comprehensive planning process -- which this report helps to launch -- that they think very carefully about how to make sure the residential growth, which we know that will sweep over Pinal County, happens. They set aside land and job growth areas and do everything they can in the economic development and strategies to ensure there are jobs there and good jobs there.

>>Larry Lemmons:
The Phoenix area is failing to meet quality standards for dust and particulates. The past legislative session, laws were passed to deal with that issue. David Majure shows us how Maricopa County is trying to keep the dust problem under control.

>>David Majure: if you move a lot of dirt in Maricopa County, you have to
have a permit.

>>David Moeller:
Permits are required for anybody that disrupts more than a tenth of an acre, which is roughly 66 feet by 66 feet squared

>>David Majure:
With your permit, you need to have a plan to avoid sending dust into the air.

>>David Moeller:
We're going to hold them to the dust-control plan that they've developed

>>David Majure:
As one of Maricopa County's air quality inspectors, David Moeller responds to complaints.

>>David Moeller:
John Q. Public is out there watching. They're telling us what you're doing.

>>David Majure:
He makes routine visits to work sites to make sure they're using the dust control measures they promised.

>>David Moeller:
When I get to a large site, I'm looking for information that tells me about that site. One of the things is the project sign behind me here.

>>David Majure:
It provides him with a permit number and other information he needs to start his inspection.

>>David Moeller:
The water here is important because this particular company chose water as its control measure. They'll use water to control the fugitive dust, the dust that comes from the site and gets into the air. They have to control the water and use it as well.

>>David Majure:
Water and other chemical stabilizers when sprayed on dirt could prevent it from blowing away.

>>David Moeller:
The dirt stock piles we have behind us here, I'm looking to see there's a visible crust. These folks have done something to minimize the dust coming from those stock piles at all times. So in addition to the dirt stock piles, we're looking at the ground in general all around. In front of me, we have moisture or evidence of moisture here in front of me. We see the mud. This is something that gives evidence that they're using water to control all of their dust around here.

>>David Majure:
When using heavy machinery, care must be taken to avoid picking up a cloud of dust.

>>David Moeller:
Basically, we're looking for the amount of dust that's blocking our view.

>>David Majure:
If his view gets blocked by 20\%, a violation has probably occurred. That's why Moeller recommends a go-slow approach when moving earth.

>>David Moeller:
The heavy equipment operator is moving slow. He's not generating. Capacity is greater than 20\%. We can see a lot of it coming off from the load when he's dumping it, but that's less than 20\%.

>>David Majure:
Critical to every dust control plan are methods for keeping dirt on the work site and out of the street.

>> David Moeller:
The rocks are here as a track and control device. What we're trying to prevent is when vehicles exit the site, we're trying to prevent the dirt from going into the streets. Dirt in the streets say problem. The vehicles pass over the dirt and pick up the dust into the area there. And it stays there. Particulate matter less than 10 microns adds to our pollution problem.

>>David Majure:
Particulates are a big problem, a serious health problem in the phoenix area according to the EPA. That federal agency is giving the state until the end of the year to come up with more ways to solve it.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Finally tonight, we return to Sir Crispin Tickell and Charles Redman of ASU's school of sustainability with a look at the specific sustainability issues facing Arizona.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Would you mind talking a little bit about phoenix? What are the specific challenges we have here in the valley? It's growing. Isn't it the largest?

>>Charles Redman:
Right now it's the fastest growing county in the country. We participate, of course, in the global changes that are going on. So all the kinds of things that Sir Crispin mentioned, I mean, the citizens of Arizona will be suffering or at least be responding to them as well. But we have some special challenges that -- climate change and environmental change it goes with it that specifically threaten us with. I think people in the valley are beginning to respond and try to think of solution and among them, and the most obvious is that the climate with on the average probably get warmer. More important than that is the idea of being destabilized which means we may see more radical shifts in the climate and that for us is a great threat. So clearly in an already hot climate getting any hotter is very important. Ad where we've become most sensitive to that is the thing we call urban heat island which has to do with the retention of solar radiation in the built environment and the concrete asphalt in the world and radiate in the night and warming up the supposedly cool mornings. This is a forest are the built environment. Global climate change will exacerbate that. And already -- this is something that people on the street every day life are concerned about because I think they recognize it's not cooling off as much each year as we go forward. Global climate change will advance that process. He other area we're quite active with in partnership with people in the community is what it might do to our water supply. We have a mixture of very interesting portfolio of water, but among those is the flow that comes either from the Colorado River or the Salt River that largely originates in snow pack. And the real threat to us here is under many of the scenarios from this resent report; the snow pack downscale to the southwest could be significantly threatened.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Sir Crispin, obviously one of the biggest impediments is the reluctance of people to change their way of life. So I was just wondering, you had mentioned you were with Richard Branson and Al Gore recently. Can you talk about that? Because obviously, that's one way via the media to sort of increase awareness about the need for this.

>>Sir Crispin Tickell:
Richard Branson as you may know is a major British entrepreneur, a most interesting man who's launched many prizes, done many things, runs an airline and runs a train service as well as many other things. He's set up a prize which is called the Virgin Earth Challenge. And the prize which is $25 million U.S. dollars -- quite a lot -- is for finding some commercially viable way of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or indeed preventing the secretion of it in the atmosphere. I'm one of the judges. The others are Al Gore, a man called -- let me think, it's -- Jim Hanson from New England. There's Tim Flannery from Australia. There's another one of my compatriots, James Lovelock. They're judging the prize.

>>Larry Lemmons:
Thanks for joining us for this sustainable edition of "Horizon." I'm Larry Lemmons. Goodnight.

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