Activists talking energy to 250,000 this summer

The Associated Press
Saturday June 02, 2001

LOS ANGELES — An environmental group has launched a door-to-door campaign to remind 250,000 Californians to conserve energy this summer. 

The California Public Interest Research Group announced Thursday it wants to encourage residents statewide to reduce electricity use and urge their elected officials to expand alternative solar, wind and geothermal power. 

“Unfortunately, most of the debate is revolving around the ’dig it up and burn it up’ methods of old, dirty energy sources,” said Kathleen Barr, the group’s energy campaign director. 

Although President Bush and Gov. Gray Davis have backed increases in alternative energy and conservation, fossil fuels continue to occupy center stage. 

Bush’s recently released energy policy calls for more oil and gas drilling, expanded use of nuclear power and 1,300 new power plants over the next 20 years. Davis has accelerated the schedule for approving new power plants, lifted pollution restrictions and is considering changes that would allow emergency diesel generators – among the dirtiest energy sources – to run more often to stave off rolling blackouts. 

But Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio said the governor also is working to reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.  

He recently signed legislation authorizing more than $800 million in conservation incentives, Maviglio said, adding California has the nation’s most lucrative benefits for installing solar and wind systems. 

CALPIRG’s efforts “are in sync exactly with what the governor’s doing,” Maviglio said. 

The CALPIRG campaign, which began about two weeks ago, is intended to drum up support for state legislation that would require energy providers to get 20 percent of California’s power from renewable sources by 2010.  

Those sources currently make up about 10 percent of the state’s electricity. 

CALPIRG is handing out postcards to Davis urging him to support that legislation, written by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Stanford. The group also expects to collect 40,000 comments to send to Bush and Davis, urging them to support cleaner energy sources. 

Previous CALPIRG summer campaigns focused on supporting increases in electric-vehicle production and improving water quality, said David Rosenfeld, field director for the energy campaign. 

The current campaign is unique, he said, because people are so familiar with the power issue. 

“It’s the best thing we’ve ever canvassed in terms of awareness of the problem,” he said. “The stakes are so high.”