Tom Friedman

Oct. is National Energy Awareness Month: How Fitting

For us, National Energy Awareness Month has special meaning.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is headquartered in Fresno, Calif. And Fresno sits in one of the nation's dirtiest air basins, bakes under summer sun that sends summertime temperatures into triple digits and has some of the highest unemployment rates and lowest income levels in the country.

If ever there was a region that could benefit from energy awareness, it's the San Joaquin Valley. Energy-efficiency steps here can dramatically cut power bills, which equates to money in the bank for homeowners, government and businesses.

My power bill in August was a heart-stopping $500, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who nearly dropped dead when the bill arrived. I could probably cut that by taking energy-efficiency steps such as those recommended in this USA Today story.

Unfortunately, shredded budgets make it difficult for many to justify more expensive measures even though that cost, for some, can be recouped in only a few years.

The SJVCEO recognized that, and in January joined forces with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and 33 Valley cities and three counties to submit to the state Energy Commission for $4 million worth of energy-saving retrofits - mostly lights, air conditioning units and pumps - on muncipal buildings.

The money is from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, designed to jump start the economy. The jump start was a bit delayed for us, but is finally getting going. We are completing the sizeable reporting requirements, and hope to actually start work in the next few months.

Why don't you honor National Energy Awareness Month by doing what you can to cut, conserve usage, or learning more about clean energy and the issues the Valley, state and world are facing?

Pulitizer-Prize winning columnist Tom Friedman of the New York Times has written extensively on the subject. His book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution - And How It Can Renew America, is a good primer.