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Energy independence for the Central Coast? 

Help San Luis Obispo County prosper

As I read the New York Times in Pismo Beach on the 72nd day of the Gulf oil spill crisis, I wondered how the San Luis Obispo County economy would fare were oil to wash up on our coastline? And I wondered why the United States is lagging behind implementing sustainable, renewable energy solutions.

For years, Denmark, Germany, Japan, and recently China have been running circles around the American renewable energy industry. Solar- and wind-energy design and manufacturing are projected to be two of the leading job-creating industries of this century, but we are falling further behind. By the end of 2009, China was the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and was second only to Japan in manufacturing photovoltaic (solar) cells.

 In the spring of 2008, an interdisciplinary delegation comprised of Cal Poly students, city and county planners, and other San Luis Obispo community leaders toured England, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, and Belgium on a 10-day European smart-energy study tour. We visited national research laboratories; city, regional, and European Union policy makers; and met with farmers, transportation managers, and business leaders in communities that have successfully converted to renewable energy and sustainability. Our county can do so as well.

Dedicated curricula in local K-12, community college, and California State University schools would help achieve that goal. The Green Hounds curriculum of Atascadero High School is a great beginning; they are weaving sustainable lessons through math, science, English, history, and elective classes. Such high-school programs could be linked to green technology classes at Cuesta and then to Cal Poly and other UC/CSU campuses.

Only by working together can business, government, labor, and communities bridge the economic needs of working families and the challenge of sustainable economic recovery and growth. The first semester of Green Technology at Cuesta incorporated more than a dozen companies in a learn-by-doing lecture, lab, and field projects. The program needs your help and experiences to expand and grow this effort.

You can be a part of the SLO County solution. Join a diverse group of local, state, and national policy makers, community advocates, educators, environmentalists, and professionals in job training and economic development to debate the critical issues of the economy and the future of our society on July 9 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Cuesta College’s San Luis Obispo Campus in the Student Center, building 5400, room 5401.

 Participation in this discussion will help inform and shape the San Luis Obispo County Climate Action Plan, with energy, waste, transportation, and agriculture sectors leading the dialogue.

The Building Workforce Partnerships forum will use Open Space Technology. This allows groups, large or small, to self-organize to effectively deal with complex issues in a very short time. Participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance. Open Space Dialogue works best where conflict is present, topics are complex, and there is large diversity of players, and the answer was needed yesterday.

Please join Congressmember Lois Capps, economic development experts, and community leaders in this important dialogue to help San Luis Obispo County prosper.

Here’s your citizenship homework assignment: Review the following community solution websites and participate in an upcoming community forum:


   First, read Think Local—Act Local by Soren Hermansen.


   Samsoe Island, a Renewable Energy Island 10 years in the making, presents a Development and Evaluation study at


   RESCO (Renewable Energy Secure Communities): The San Luis Obispo RESCO project seeks to advance conversation about local renewable energy.  The project team is investigating the renewable energy resource endowment for San Luis Obispo County, looking for ways to use those resources to meet future energy needs and working to build relationships. See


   Marin Energy Authority is a renewable energy alternative to PG&E’s electric supply, which is available to Marin customers.  MCE is responsible for sourcing the power and purchasing the energy supply while PG&E continues to deliver the energy, maintain and repair transmission lines, and provide customer service and billing. See

Kenneth Smokoska is coordinating a Green Technology program at Cuesta College, represents the Labor Management Cooperation Committee of IBEW/NECA, and is a member of the Workforce, Education, and Training Task Force of the California Public Utilities Commission. Send comments to the editor at

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