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A clear mandate

February 16, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald
Mike Gilchrist in The Toledo Chronicle

If recent events in North Africa don’t alert you to the volatility of the region and the threat to the tenuous supply line which carries a large part of the world’s oil, then you, in the words of my friend Joe, “Have been living under a rock.”

America’s dependence on foreign oil for our energy needs is the greatest risk to our national security we now face. It’s not Al Qaeda, it’s not the Taliban, it’s not insurgents in Iraq or Egypt, no, our insatiable thirst for oil threatens us most. We send billions of dollars to counties who don’t even like us very much. We pump billions of dollars into a region rife with insurgency and civil unrest and where we are viewed as the great Satan.

We have to solve our energy needs domestically and look to new technologies to bring about a transition from depending on oil barons to creating our own energy to meet our needs. Not only will doing so lessen the threat to our national security, it will also stimulate OUR economy instead of the economies of those countries which merely tolerate, or outright hate America.

It was with great interest I listened to President Obama deliver his recent State of the union Address. I wanted to know what sort of roadmap to energy independence he was developing to help get us out of this mess. I found those answers in his address, and excerpt portions of his speech here to help develop my point.

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

“That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.”

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if -- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)”

The path our president has set for America is a clear mandate that alternative means of satisfying our energy needs is in our best interest, and should be obvious to anybody not living under a rock.

Earlier in this space I alerted you to the fact that a modification to the Toledo City Ordinance was in the works to restrict wind generators within the city. The proposed ordinance, with minor modification is still going to be passed unless you stand up and voice your concern.

If you are reading this column on Tuesday, then yesterday the first hearing regarding the modified ordinance was held at the regular City Council meeting. There has to be at least one more reading before they can waive the third and adopt the ordinance.

There is still language in the ordinance which restricts the building of a wind generator in the City of Toledo on any lot under one acre in size. I’ll ask you one more time, how many lots are in Toledo that are an acre in size? One? None? Certainly no residential lots would meet the restriction.

Your weekly columnist has been able to determine why the city leaders are passing this ordinance which effectively bans wind generators in the city.

Their logic seems to be that if they enact a general ban, then they can go back and ease up on the restrictions as people want to erect a wind generator and come to the city for permission.

A well developed ordinance is infinitely better than the outright ban which will be passed if you do nothing.

Their logic is that any variance from the ordinance, which for all intents and purposes is ANY request to erect a wind generator will be handed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for review.

I went to the Toledo ordinance to determine exactly what authority the Zoning Board of Adjustment might have, and what criteria they must use in making a determination.

The ONLY reference to the authority of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and their authority in granting variances can be found in Chapter 160 -- Flood Plain Regulations. There, it specifies there must be a demonstrated “unnecessary hardship.” Here is an excerpted portion of the code:

“160.15 VARIANCES. The Board of Adjustment may authorize upon request in specific cases such variances from the terms of this chapter that will not be contrary to the public interest, where owing to special conditions, a literal enforcement of the provisions of this chapter will result in unnecessary hardship.”

What is “an unnecessary hardship?” Is it that our national security is being threatened by a continued thirst for Mideast oil? That high energy bills threaten a family budget and create a hardship?

Why doesn’t the city just create a WORKABLE ordinance and be done with it? In light of the mandate detailed by our president, any attempt to ban these new clean energy technologies might be viewed as treasonous; what do you think?

If you live in the City of Toledo, if you think you might want to erect a small wind generator on your property some day, tell your city leaders to adopt a usable ordinance and NOT just ban them outright. There is still time – speak out!

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on the “Local Columns” button at the bottom of the page.

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2011 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.

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