"Air Quality 2006" looked at ways cities might improve energy efficiencies for cleaner air. With the theme of "creating the clean energy city," representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the City of Houston took part in panels focused on ozone standards, renewable energy options and water and electric infrastructure. Tom Fitzpatrick with the Energy Systems Lab at Texas A&M says there are some government officials who are forward-thinking in how they deal with clean air.
"The ones who are here are extraordinary for the fact that they are not only representing a sign of political courage and political leadership, but they also do have an interest in are supportive of and knowledgeable in some of the technology issues and some of the technical problems in air quality, both as a problem and as a source of opportunities for their community. Local governments, because there's some direction in Senate Bill 5, which was passed in 2001, requires that local governments set goals for reducing their electric consumption and report those, their progress, to the state Energy Conservation Office."
Fitzpatrick says there can be economic motivations for coming up with large-scale air quality improvements through better land use, transportation efficiencies and infrastructure improvements.
"We want people to recognize that that economic development is part of the whole package of understanding the region and providing new markets for energy efficiency and renewable energy, providing incentives for development of new technologies, and actually growing those technologies and that knowledge base in your community has a huge potential economic benefit, as well as just you can save money by doing, you know, by using energy more efficiently and eliminating waste and eliminating pollution problems that are expenses down the road."
Fitzpatrick hopes that participants were able to take away some information and inspiration.
"Well, several things. The first is a little more information about any aspect of the problem that they sort of were unfamiliar with before. To taste a little bit of knowledge. But inspiration! I mean, some of the health reasons that we ought to be interested in it, and the fact that that does impact a lot of people's lives and health is a, it should provide some personal motivation."
Fitzpatrick wants government and community leaders to be motivated to participate in problem-solving for their own decision-making and choices, and to be involved in creating communities of cleaner air. He says it starts with their leadership. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.