It isn't easy being green
But green sounds good. Green energy rhymes with clean energy. And when politicians think of clean energy in Saratoga Springs, they think of votes in the 2007 election. This is especially after the city’s first Environmental Expo in April, when droves of conservation-minded commercialists descended upon the city offering a thousand and one ways to sell products that will somehow stead the tide of destruction wrecking havoc on Mother Earth.
Three months later, the two Democrats running for mayor are both hoping to bank some political capital by speaking softly and caring a recycled environmentally friendly woodchip stick. Incumbent Mayor Valerie Keehn rolled out a list of “green initiatives” she intends fire by city council during the final months of her first term. Things like such as efficiency standards for city buildings, retrofitting public offices, renewable energy purchasing and converting the city’s fleet of vehicles to be clean and efficient.
Party-endorsed challenger Gordon Boyd doesn’t intend to be outdone at his own game. His company, EnergyNext, has long advocated the principles of conservation and clean energy sources; Boyd is, so to speak, a power broker. And as such, he intends to boast a so-called city energy plan of the future. He already seems to think the city is on the vanguard of the green wave that is crashing over the east coast.
The city might be at the forefront of the green movement when it comes to “buying” clean energy. But this is a snake oil many power companies have been pawning off for years; buy this energy plan and more than 40 percent of your electricity will be generated from a wind mill and not some dirty coal plant, the sales pitch goes. Of course, you’ll never see or know the difference as a green consumer, you’ll just have to take the trust-worthy altruistic never-seeking-profit power company’s word for it.
Then again, it’s not like Saratoga County residents are flocking to the local coal plant to buy their energy. Still, the air quality is rated the worst in the Capital Region by the American Lung Association. For the umpteenth time in a row, Saratoga County received a failing grade for having 10 “high ozone” days, trumping both the industry-happy counties of Schenectady and Rensselaer.
Where’s all this pollution coming from? Well it ain’t the lights in City Hall. Try the plumes of black smoke that spit from diesel 18-wheelers and the veritable procession of like-fueled busses doing pirouettes South Broadway. Or perhaps the thousands of vehicles idling on the main strip, which during the tourism season, is akin to the largest parking lot in the city proper.
How ironic. The county that once attracted the masses from down south because of its clean and healthy air is now considered the worst place for an asthmatic to seek refuge. And at the center of it all is a city that probably belches large regional cloud of smog each summer but doesn’t thinking up a rational plan to limit vehicle traffic.
The answer from city hall: spend millions to build more parking spaces. Erect large concrete monuments to the waning quality of local air, allowing even more vehicles to pile into the already congested downtown. Then pay National Grid a few extra dollars to buy supposedly clean energy and then double calk the windows at city hall to get the green stamp.
There is no easy solution to solving pollution from vehicle traffic, which crowds through the city at an increasing basis. Not at least for a council loaded with visionless politicians who lack the fortitude to make difficult decisions to improve the quality of life in the future. Eventually, someone will need to throw themselves on the grenade. In the meantime, the public can wheeze through another few ozone alerts while jaundiced politicians argue whose greener.