Sat11222014

Last updateThu, 20 Nov 2014 12am

Who is responsible?

In 2004 I, moved to Florida to work with the late Wes Skiles.  I was present many times as Wes had conversations with politicians, farmers, environmentalists, homeowners, developers, students, teachers and pretty much everyone and anyone who uses water in Florida.  I came to believe there is no one solution to insuring that we continue to have the most amazing source of fresh water in the world.  Nor is there one particular group, industry or behavior that is responsible for the decline in water quality and quantity.  Everyone is a stakeholder in what has become a fight for water.   Stakeholders must stop fighting for a right to water and agree that this finite resource needs to be shared.  Sharing will require sacrifice from all. But without sacrifice, we are unlikely to preserve one of the most amazing economic and life-giving resources, the Floridan Aquifer.

Protecting the springs is a complex endeavor, and there must be a constant conversation about how we all use water.  Sounds obvious, but it isn't. We like things to be easy, and nothing is easier than having somebody else solve the problem or make sacrifices.  We are a society that accepts waste as a privilege.  What is our individual responsibility, and can we do anything meaningful?   The reality is that it is not only an issue about water quality, but also jobs.

If you are traveling for the holidays, will you save water by unplugging computers and turning off your water heater?  It saves water because it also saves electricity.  Water is required to produce electricity, such as performing cooling functions and producing steam.  As an example, the new biomass plant here in Alachua County requires up to 1.2 million gallons of water per day to operate.  While as much as half of that amount is coming from reclaimed waste-water, and thanks to the City of Alachua for that, the rest must come from the ground.

We could focus on big corporations, such as electric utilities, but what changes are we making in our behaviors to reduce the demand for electricity?  LED light bulbs, solar water heating, actually turning off lights and equipment in rooms we are not using?  Why do empty store parking lots need to be fully lit at 1 a.m.?  As a society, we accept waste, and it is so much easier to use a water heater and just pay the bill.  Did you know that solar systems can be so efficient that even after three or four days of little sun, hot water is still available?  Saving water by saving electricity should be the goal, with a smaller electric bill being a bonus.

We take for granted the large-scale infrastructure used to provide water to all the taps in and around our homes.  Are we willing to give up long showers or watering lawns with potable water?   Why don’t we start promoting the large-scale collection of rainwater?  How much water would be saved if it were as common in the U.S. to collect rainwater and use that water to flush toilets?  How much water could remain in the ground if every home first used water collected in a 2000-gallon-tank?  Maybe we should be demanding our legislators change the laws to allow the use of non-potable water for the flushing of toilets.  Do we need drinkable water to be used in our toilets?  While it is easier to use water provided by your well or the city, it is not a sustainable practice. 

 When individuals are willing to make large-scale changes in how water is used, the conversation with large-scale users of water shifts.  Solving the need to use a limited resource equitably has to be a part of the conversation. Mother Earth speaks quietly about her concerns. If there were an attack on any brick-and-mortar multi-billion dollar industry in Florida, individuals and politicians would take action.  Our springs are being attacked, and I’m not sure we all understand the individual consequences to not taking action.  As stakeholders, let's do what is not simple. Let's make small changes, speak to our representatives and speak with our actions.  The bill for the alternative is much more that you are willing to pay, I promise.

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Remember and honor

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. The remembrance spans 238 years and over 60 military actions claiming 1.4 million lives. Memorial Day is the day to remember those who gave their lives that “last full measure of devotion,’’ as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently said.

The tradition of Memorial Day draws from the words of Lincoln on the battlefield at Gettysburg: “...we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

Ultimately, Memorial Day is for the living. Lives lost in battle profoundly affect the lives of comrades and loved ones who must carry on. Each generation sacrifices for those who follow. For veterans who have returned from battle or who are currently serving, the gravestones that mark the cemeteries throughout the nation hold great significance. For veterans, the importance of war memorials isn’t limited to once or twice a year during days of military remembrance. And it is appropriate that today, Americans who enjoy the peace and prosperity gained through great sacrifice, remember the debt they owe to those who came before them.

But, how can we the people honor our fallen heroes? In recent decades, it has become customary for families to honor their loved ones on Memorial Day by decorating their graves, in addition to remembering those who gave their lives in combat. To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” created the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. Other remembrances include attending a memorial service, by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon, and by flying the POW/MIA Flag, as well as aiding the families of these heroes and aiding our wounded warriors.

As we observe this Memorial Day and this special weekend with family and friends, let us take time to remember those who have fought and died while serving our country throughout the years. It has never been clearer that their sacrifices and allegiance on our behalf extend beyond borders and generations.

Remember, honor and say a word of thanks for those who lost their lives and to those who continue serving and defending our freedom around the globe.

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Florida Agriculture and Energy: Connected, and Affecting Us All

editorial2012 160 80When we look at the modern skyline and suburban development of so many Florida cities, it’s easy to forget that ours is also a substantially agricultural state. Agriculture plays an essential role in Florida’s vital energy future, and it is clearly time that its impact be factored into the development of long-term energy policies at both the state and national levels.

Everyone recognizes the importance of tourism to Florida’s economy, but many overlook that agriculture is a $100 billion industry here. With 25 to 30 percent of agricultural production costs tied directly to energy, and agricultural production so intertwined with our existence, we ignore this sector at our own peril.

Agriculture in Florida is not a mere relic of yesteryear – it’s as technologically advanced as any other industry. Thanks to innovation, our state is in the top one-third of the nation in net farm income, even though so much of our land is occupied by everything from cities and suburbs to retirement communities, theme parks and even golf courses.

To succeed over the long haul, farmers must make decisions for 20 years down the road. Unfortunately, the absence of a comprehensive national energy policy continues to handicap their ability to do proper long-range planning.

The Consumer Energy Alliance strongly believes we need an all-of-the-above energy policy, one that relies on all types of energy sources – not just oil and gas, but also solar, wind, nuclear and others. For this reason, we believe agriculture must be included in any plans. This was a key topic of discussion at a recent Ag-Energy Summit held in Atlanta by our sister organization, the Southeast Energy Alliance.

Florida has some 47,500 farms ranging from small family operations to large commercial enterprises. The average farm size in Florida is almost 200 acres, and operations this size cannot run on human power alone. They rely on electricity for everything from irrigation pumps to lighting and even air circulation fans in chicken houses – and that doesn’t factor in the fuel for tractors and other essential equipment, or the energy used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides.

In 2011, Florida’s agricultural sector purchased $274.5 million worth of petroleum fuel and oils and another $97.9 million worth of electricity. This is not, if you’ll excuse the expression, just chicken feed. Every dollar Florida farmers spend on production translates directly into the food prices we all pay, as well as Florida agriculture’s ability to continue employing three-quarters of a million people. Higher prices on the agricultural products we export also make us less competitive in the global market.

The stakes are huge. Clearly, federal and state energy policy is about more than just the price we pay to put gasoline in our cars.

We must also remember that agriculture is a producer of energy, though on a limited basis, from methane to bio-fuels to wind. Our state has been a leader in trying to find new crops that can be used to produce energy without competing with the food supply for people and livestock. We are also beginning to tap the potential of biomass – for example, a facility nearing completion will use advanced combustion technology to efficiently convert forest products into energy for use by residents of Gainesville. Even on smaller farms, solar offers an abundant potential source of power for livestock watering, electric fencing and lighting.

Florida has been an agricultural state throughout its modern history, and energy supply has become an increasingly important factor in farm production. For all of us, Florida and the nation must have a coherent energy policy that takes into account all aspects of life in our state – including our essential agriculture sector.

Kevin Doyle is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, the state affiliate of a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to improve consumer understanding of America’s energy security. The Consumer Energy Alliance brings together consumers, producers and manufacturers to engage in a meaningful dialogue about America’s energy future.

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Florida Agriculture and Energy: Connected, and Affecting Us All, Guest Editorial

When we look at the modern skyline and suburban development of so many Florida cities, it’s easy to forget that ours is also a substantially agricultural state. Agriculture plays an essential role in Florida’s vital energy future, and it is clearly time that its impact be factored into the development of long-term energy policies at both the state and national levels.

Everyone recognizes the importance of tourism to Florida’s economy, but many overlook that agriculture is a $100 billion industry here. With 25 to 30 percent of agricultural production costs tied directly to energy, and agricultural production so intertwined with our existence, we ignore this sector at our own peril.

Agriculture in Florida is not a mere relic of yesteryear – it’s as technologically advanced as any other industry. Thanks to innovation, our state is in the top one-third of the nation in net farm income, even though so much of our land is occupied by everything from cities and suburbs to retirement communities, theme parks and even golf courses.

To succeed over the long haul, farmers must make decisions for 20 years down the road. Unfortunately, the absence of a comprehensive national energy policy continues to handicap their ability to do proper long-range planning.

The Consumer Energy Alliance strongly believes we need an all-of-the-above energy policy, one that relies on all types of energy sources – not just oil and gas, but also solar, wind, nuclear and others. For this reason, we believe agriculture must be included in any plans. This was a key topic of discussion at a recent Ag-Energy Summit held in Atlanta by our sister organization, the Southeast Energy Alliance.

Florida has some 47,500 farms ranging from small family operations to large commercial enterprises. The average farm size in Florida is almost 200 acres, and operations this size cannot run on human power alone. They rely on electricity for everything from irrigation pumps to lighting and even air circulation fans in chicken houses – and that doesn’t factor in the fuel for tractors and other essential equipment, or the energy used to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides.

In 2011, Florida’s agricultural sector purchased $274.5 million worth of petroleum fuel and oils and another $97.9 million worth of electricity. This is not, if you’ll excuse the expression, just chicken feed. Every dollar Florida farmers spend on production translates directly into the food prices we all pay, as well as Florida agriculture’s ability to continue employing three-quarters of a million people. Higher prices on the agricultural products we export also make us less competitive in the global market.

The stakes are huge. Clearly, federal and state energy policy is about more than just the price we pay to put gasoline in our cars.

We must also remember that agriculture is a producer of energy, though on a limited basis, from methane to bio-fuels to wind. Our state has been a leader in trying to find new crops that can be used to produce energy without competing with the food supply for people and livestock. We are also beginning to tap the potential of biomass – for example, a facility nearing completion will use advanced combustion technology to efficiently convert forest products into energy for use by residents of Gainesville. Even on smaller farms, solar offers an abundant potential source of power for livestock watering, electric fencing and lighting.

Florida has been an agricultural state throughout its modern history, and energy supply has become an increasingly important factor in farm production. For all of us, Florida and the nation must have a coherent energy policy that takes into account all aspects of life in our state – including our essential agriculture sector.

Kevin Doyle is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida, the state affiliate of a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to improve consumer understanding of America’s energy security. The Consumer Energy Alliance brings together consumers, producers and manufacturers to engage in a meaningful dialogue about America’s energy future.

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High Springs, this is your chance

Editorial2012  There is perhaps no better time to send a message to your local elected officials than on Election Day.  For High Springs voters, the choices have never been clearer.  Two key votes on the Nov. 6 ballot may well determine whether or not High Springs can repair the damage inflicted over the last 12 months and chart a new course.

Despite election year hyperbole and misinformation that invariably dots the campaign trail, there should not be any confusion that Byran Williams is the candidate who brings the promise of a more prosperous High Springs.  Additionally, Alachua County Today implores voters to turn down a proposed charter amendment that seeks to “restrict municipal borrowing.”

As to the candidates up for election, Williams and Pat Rush are both vying for Commission Seat 4, currently held by outgoing mayor Dean Davis.  Electing Williams will surely dissolve the current commission’s blockade on common sense.  Pat Rush, on the other hand, will almost certainly guarantee continued insanity on the part of the commission.

In a city that has been plagued by mind-numbingly deplorable commission decisions and actions throughout the past year, time is of the essence.  This may be the people’s last chance to save a sinking High Springs.  Voting for Byran Williams will limit the ability of Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas and Commissioner Linda Gestrin to continue ripping apart the fabric of High Springs.  Conversely, electing Rush will only serve to embolden these rogue commissioners who unwisely brought back a costly dispatch center while cutting already depressed employee pay as well as making other budgetary blunders.

Time and time again, Barnas, Gestrin and Mayor Dean Davis have foolishly thwarted the will of the public and knowingly failed to act in the best interest of the citizenry.  Perhaps even more egregious is that many of these mistakes have been as a result of political payback.  Candidate Pat Rush doesn’t decry the actions of the current commission; instead, like Barnas, he continues to look backward instead of ahead.

By all accounts, Commissioners Sue Weller and Scott Jamison are likely worlds apart in terms of political philosophy, but when it comes to running the City of High Springs, both share a common goal – making sound and reasoned decisions that will serve High Springs and its residents now and in the future.  Unfortunately, Weller and Jamison do not have other likeminded commissioners with whom to work.  Electing Byran Williams will ensure rational commission decisions.

Make no mistake about it; this trio has largely been serving at the behest of one commissioner – Bob Barnas.  It should be stated in no uncertain terms that Bob Barnas is tantamount to a schoolyard bully whose ego deserves a bigger person.  Barnas may well strike fear in the minds of many, but Alachua County Today is unfazed by his petty barbs, insinuations and threats.  This newspaper remains steadfast with the people of High Springs, many who are incensed with the wanton and willful actions of Barnas and the gang.

For more proof that Rush would simply toe the same line as Barnas and Gestrin, one need only review his support for the last item on the ballot – a charter amendment restricting borrowing.  The questionable method by which Barnas, Gestrin and Davis ramrodded this amendment onto the ballot is disingenuous at best and quite possibly illegal.  Nevertheless, Rush supports it.  After all, restricting borrowing seems superficially the responsible thing to do.

In reality, this amendment handcuffs the City and sets it up for a costly and lengthy election process.  Moreover, it ensures bureaucracy and inflexibility at a time when the City most needs agility, leadership and swiftness.

In short, this charter amendment is misleadingly wrapped in the comforting words of “restrict municipal borrowing.”  In fact what this charter amendment is intended to do is tie the hands of commissioners and prevent a reasoned approach in dealing with the High Springs sewer system.  It strips away responsibilities with which the fine people of High Springs have entrusted their leaders.

Alachua County Today strongly urges High Springs voters to restore sanity to the commission by voting for Byran Williams and “No” on the proposed charter amendment.  If voters select nothing else on the ballot, it is imperative that they go to the last page and vote for Williams and against the amendment.

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