> Bruce Karney
> Saving the Planet One City at a Time
> For the last several years, city governments around the world have
> asked residents to help develop plans to make them more sustainable.
> Mountain View's Environmental Sustainability Task Force was active
> from February to September 2008 and produced 89 specific
> recommendations in its 300-page report, which can be found on the
> city’s web site. The City Council is currently in the process of
> deciding which recommendations to pursue.
> Bruce Karney, the Chair of the Task Force and a long time Mountain
> View resident, will discuss the lessons he learned during and after
> the Task Force was active and will answer questions about "what's
> next."
> is also known for organizing a group purchase of solar panels in 2007
> in which 119 families bought solar PV from a single vendor at a deep
> discount. Most recently, he worked in marketing and customer finance
> at SolarCity, California's leading residential solar design,
> installation and financing company.

Bruce began his presentation by asking each of us to project something about the future 190 years down the road. On each plate was a page of puzzles for grown ups and crayons. There were three charts on the page, world population, life expectancy at birth, and CO2 Concentration. Each chart was filled in from 1800 to now, and our job was to fill in the other half of the chart. After we did that, he showed us two charts, one where population and life expectancy crash and CO2 goes up and up, and one where population stabilizes, life expectancy stays long, and CO2 concentration stabilizes around 420 PPM. He guessed that most of us probably produced charts somewhere between those.

Then Bruce asked why, if Mountain View's carbon foot print is only a small percentage of humanity's carbon footprint, should we care about making it smaller? He pointed out that we are a relatively rich city in a relatively rich State in a remarkably wealthy nation. We have the resources to find better ways of doing things. Since it is much easier to copy a good idea than it is to come up with one, if we can find something others will adopt it.

That could have a huge multiplying effect on reducing CO2 emissions, far beyond our direct impact. A couple of years ago, Step It Up had created a national campaign to get Mayors all across America to sign climate protection agreements. One of the points was to set up a citizens task force to look into ways to make the city's carbon footprint smaller. Mayor Macias signed the agreement near the end of her term, and Mayor Means implemented it. Mountain View had an Environmetal Sustainability task force of 50 to 80 people, depending on how you count them. The steering committee was just a dozen, and the city budgeted six months and $30,000 dollars for its work. In the end, Mtn View's task force took seven months or so, but never needed all of the money allocated.

Some members of the task force worked very hard on the project. In the end, they came up with 89 recommendations, explained over a 300 page report. These were handed off to a newly formed Council Sustainability Committee consisting of Mayor Abe-Koga, Ronit Bryant, and Jac Siegal. After several meetings, the Council Sustainablity Committee forwarded about 20 recommendations to the full City Council for their approval, and that approval was given in March.

A copy of the task force report can be downloaded from the FINAL REPORT link on:


During Q&A a lot of interesting things came up.

Bruce said that a lot of the report's recommendations revolved around transportation. He explained that a pie chart of a typical person's energy consumption looks like a peace sign, with the small slices being electricity and gas, and the large slices being driving and flying. Mountain View can't do much about flying, but driving is certainly something the city can influence.

A lot of the suggestions that affect the built environment are being folded into the next increment of Mountain View's ten year plan. Others, like "use drought tolerant plants", can only be adopted on a voluntary basis, except in City owned parks and places like that.

One reason that solar panels are more popular in this area than most is because PG&E prices power so that baseline usage is sold at about 12 cents per KWHr, the next increment of power costs 22 cents per KWHr, and so on. The sweet spot for solar panel sales is replacing power that customers are now paying 44 cents per KWHr for. After rebates, that investment can have as little as a five to seven year pay back time.

It may be that we are going to have to build dikes along the bay front to prevent sea level rise from shrinking Mtn View. Obviously we will have to partner with the cities around us to make that happen.

Getting Apartment building owners to add insulation and such is a challenge, since they don't pay the bills. Bruce wishes that the city would look into ways to make it required when ownership changes hands, but there is no movement in that direction yet. Sales of rental property happens much more slowly than with owner occupied residences.

Tian Harter