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The QueQue, June 22, 2011

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Green unveiling

It may smack sustainable-city leaders in such affluent locales as Berkeley, Portland, or Chicago as an upstart challenge, but on Monday San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro minced no words in declaring that the Alamo City is now officially gunning to be the nation’s top dog in clean-technology development. Castro told hundreds of influential guests at what can only be described as the largest, best-dressed press conference in recent memory, “San Antonio, it can be said today, is not a follower, it is a leader.”

This week the same can be said of Castro. Upon his 2009 election, the young mayor inherited a green-tech vision that had sprung out of the political vision of the Hardberger administration and was given validation and direction through the work and encouragement of influential consultant Jeremy Rifkin, but with a strike at dirty coal, commitment to additional solar, and the unveiling of a team of clean-tech companies coming to San Antonio, the dream of Mission Verde has became the sole property of Castro.

Introducing a cadre of new clean-tech “partners,” collectively representing only a couple hundred jobs for the city, Castro said, “In the United States there is no single city or region that has captured the mantle of the new energy economy city. … Very simply put, today is the beginning of San Antonio’s effort to become the new energy economy city.”

In one stroke, CPS Energy lowered the boom on our oldest and dirtiest coal plant, Deely units 1 and 2, promising to close it by 2018 and thereby reduce damaging emissions like sulfur dioxide by 85 percent and mercury by 58 percent, according to CPS CEO Doyle Beneby. While widely applauded, reps from Public Citizen questioned the wisdom of a “clean” coal representative sharing the stage with bona fide clean-tech reps like LED lighting company GreenStar, moving their HQ to SA; pollution-free cooling experts Cold Car USA; energy-efficiency outfit Consert, also setting up shop locally; and solar titan SunEdison, which announced a new 30MW solar field for our city. In essence, CPS hopes to replace some of those lost Deely megawatts by entering a 25-year agreement with Summit Energy expected to break ground on a “clean” coal plant outside Odessa later this year. The company plans to be able to capture 90 percent of its greenhouse gases to be stored underground, most likely. The technology of carbon sequestration has been delayed by high costs, but has also been widely lambasted as an effort in futility. Most recently, Stanford geophysicist Mark Zoback found that the practice increases the potential for earthquakes large enough to release the captured gas back into the atmosphere.

SB9 protests planned

Activists are planning what they hope will be a massive protest hitting the streets on July Fourth, aiming to draw national attention to Texas SB9, the bill that would (watch for the double-negative) forbid any Texas law enforcement agency from not allowing its officers to ask about the immigration status of residents. They’re hoping the U.S. Department of Justice will investigate changing Texas immigration policies in the way they did in Arizona.

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