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There are two ways change happens.  The first is when something appears that is so attractive that everyone uses it to the exclusion of whatever it was they used to use.  An example is Internet search engines.  Remember encyclopedias?  There were multiple volumes, plus yearly updates that you subscribed to.  These books didn't have much on anything, but they had a little bit on just about everything.  They were essential for researching school papers,  Encyclopedias were big business... until they weren't.  It wasn't long after search engines appeared that encyclopedias were doomed.

The other way is to proclaim a change, and then make it happen.  The current Lansing energy controversies are an example of that.  People are saying no more coal and no more natural gas.  And come hell or high water there will be no more coal or natural gas if they get their way.  But despite new technologies, there doesn't seem to be a renewable energy alternative at this moment that can make up for the absence of those fuels.  To make matters worse, the electrical grid has proven unreliable to the point where the Town has been inundated with blackouts and power surges that are damaging people's electronic devices, including major appliances, in some cases.

This second kind of change can be very successful, but not without a certain amount of hurt.  Look at our moon program in the 1960s.  On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy presented NASA and the nation with a historic challenge: To put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the 1960s.  In July of 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin E. 'Buzz' Aldrin did it.  But when Kennedy declared we would do it, we didn't have the available technology.  And there was a lot of pain between 1961 and 1969 in the form, among other things, of exploding rockets.  A lot of American exploding rockets in the panic after Russia successfully launched Sputnick, and then launched cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, who became the first person in space (that we know of.  There are no documented alien abductions of Earthlings that we know of).

So you can't argue that it is possible to set a goal, no matter how impossible it may seem, and achieve it.  The question is how much pain are you willing to suffer between saying it will be so and actually making it so?

It would be a lot more palatable if the people driving the argument for eliminating fossil fuels in Lansing right now lived in Lansing.  And it would be more palatable if those non-Lansing advocates of renewable energy right now didn't live in communities with ample natural gas.  It comes off as bullying and disrespectful of the people of Lansing who evidently are  not smart enough or evolved enough to worry about climate change and non-renewable resources and actually do something about it.

Despite appearances, just about everyone in the Lansings want renewable energy.  And what appears to be a growing number of Lansing folks seem to want renewable energy sooner than later.  However, a lot of folks in the Town and Village also want their TVs and cell phone chargers, lights, and heat and air conditioners to work right now and into the future.  I don't think most of us care where that power is coming from.  We just want the light to go on when we flick the switch.  And I don't think most people anywhere in the county or in the world feel much differently.

Then there is the issue of energy delivery.  I read post after Facebook post by Lansing residents who lost electronic devices during the recent epidemic of blackouts, and some even lost major appliances.  I lost five devices (so far) myself.  The Village of Lansing Mayor lost a modem.  It doesn't matter whether electricity is coming from coal or natural gas or solar panels or windmills if it can't get to your house reliably and safely.  Right now power delivery in the town sounds like a quote from the old Batman show (the real Batman, none of these new fangled dark, depressed Batmans. Of course I mean Adam West): "Pop!  Sizzle!  Pow!"

Proponents of alternate heating and power sources are, no doubt, overstating the affordability and practicality of these technologies to make their point.  Those who want to go slower may also be exaggerating the negative impacts of being deprived of natural gas, either for consumers or the power plant's impact on the Town.  Both sides seem to want the same thing, but disagree on the timeline.

So we have to ask ourselves, how many rocket explosions -- or fried appliances or hours without electricity -- are we willing to endure in order to reach our common goal of 100% renewable energy with no toxic emissions?  As long as the natural gas moratorium is in place, Lansing has no choice.  Nobody is talking about a realistic time line with achievable goals.  I have heard '25 years' bandied about as a time when a full transition may be feasible.  But no specifics based on a reasonable analysis of when new technologies will be able to handle the growing demand for power.

What do we agree on?  We want clean renewable energy and we want reliable delivery.  The second one is easy.  Fix the grid.  We have the technology to do that, and a good enough vision of where power generation is going in the future that grid upgrades can be designed to accommodate them.  To some extent NYSEG is doing that in Lansing right now with its Energy Smart program, though a lot more must be done, evidently, to make power delivery reasonably reliable.

As for the rest, why not say that renewable energy technology needs to reach certain benchmarks before taking away x amount of natural gas usage?  There are two parts of renewable energy - generating the power and storing it.  Great strides are being made in the first part, but battery technology is only beginning to evolve into something usable on a scale that will power whole communities day and night, on windy days and calm ones.  A reasonable compromise could make both parties reasonably happy, while satisfying both sides that what we want is an achieved goal, not merely achievable.

Rather than fuzzy rhetoric it would be nice if the two sides could get together and come up with SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals that will insure that everybody gets what everybody wants.  When you talk about the details the logic of a timeline becomes apparent.  We might reach our goal later than some want, but sooner than others think.

Without too many exploding rocket ships.

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