My 5: Francis Thicke, Organic Dairy Farmer, Political Candidate
Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) has endorsed Francis Thicke, Ph.D., in his candidacy for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture,. We asked Thicke two questions we like to ask all our interviewees. Following are his responses. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
5 Ways to Save the Planet
BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?
1. Probably the easiest thing we could do collectively in this country right now is to increase the average fuel efficiency of cars on the road. The average passenger vehicle (including SUVs) gets about 22 mpg. Hybrid vehicle technology is already on the road today that can double that mileage, and with plug-in hybrid technology — that is also available today — we could quadruple our mileage.
Clearly, we have the technology available right now to reduce the 140 billion gallons of gasoline used each year in this country to half or less. According to EPA, each gallon of gasoline burned emits 19.4 lbs of carbon dioxide. If we reduced our gasoline use by half, we would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 679 million tons per year, and save more barrels of oil annually than are imported from the Middle East.
We seem to be slow learners in this country when it comes to vehicle fuel efficiency. Even the much touted Cash For Clunkers program was a failure for efficiency. According to data from the Department of Transportation, the average mileage for cars purchased through the program was only 24.9mpg. So even in a program with one of its goals purported to be increased fuel efficiency, we failed miserably.
2. The U.S. should step up and take a global lead in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause climate change. Arguments that we can’t do anything unless China and India sign on immediately ring hollow when you consider that the U.S. has historically been one of the largest GHG contributors, and on a per capita basis we currently produce about four times as much GHG as China. If other countries do not take appropriate steps to curb their GHG emissions, we can justifiably institute “dirty” tariffs on imports from those countries that produce goods with dirty fuel.
In the U.S. we have industry groups — like power companies and some agricultural groups — that think they should be exempt from GHG controls. We all need to step up and do our part. Reducing GHG will bring multiple benefits, including health benefits from improved air quality and economic benefits from switching to renewable energy systems and converting to a green economy.
3. Increase the amount of perennial crops used in agriculture by integrating animals back onto the landscape in ways that are ecologically sound, and by converting the U.S. biofuels industry to the use of perennial crops for feedstocks. That would convert a lot of annual row-cropped land to perennial cropping systems, which would reduce soil erosion, reduce nutrient pollution of our water resources, and save fossil fuel energy.
4. Convert our energy systems to truly renewable and sustainable systems, predominantly wind and solar. For example, according to the American Wind Energy Association, we have the potential, with wind generation, to produce three times more electricity in Iowa than we use annually. We need to develop systems to store the energy produced by wind, like hydrogen, for example. Similarly, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible to do with solar energy, including solar hot water heating and photovoltaics on the roofs of the millions of homes across the U.S.
5. Help people in countries around the world develop the capacity to feed themselves using the resources available to them locally. Research from around the world is increasingly leading to the conclusion that solutions to world food problems will not come from high-input, silver-bullet technologies, or from food imports from places like Iowa. Rather, the solutions will come from local development of ecologically sound farming systems that optimize the use of resources produced locally.
2 Minutes with the President
BPGL: If you had two minutes with President Obama, what would you say to him?
THICKE: I would urge him to put more emphasis on transitioning our economy to clean, renewable energy, and suggest that if he accomplished that it would be a boon for our health, environment, and long-range economy, and it would be a legacy history would remember him for.
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