Saturday, March 15, 2008

Energy from Tidal Waves: Gavin Newsom

San Francisco, California, Mayor Gavin Newsom has done it again - being controversial that is - his tidal energy project has lately been debated (or attacked) even by alternative energy supporters.

A while back (early 2006) Newsom announced that the City will explore the possibility of generating power from the tidal flow under the Golden Gate Bridge and launched a $150,000 feasibility study to examine the tidal energy project, which could generate up to 35 megawatts of power, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The issue is that early indicators point to less promising results and so of course many want to scrap the project.

To which Mr Newsom said something like - I heard this on NPR while driving so I paraphrase- "I understand the the arguments against it. I only want to hear the arguments for it because - somebody's gotta do it - and I'm gonna do it."

This is why you've gotta love Newsom - its not his looks or his gravel voice - its his convictions. And his long term thinking. Research is risky business but its rewards are proportionally great. To give up on a project at the first sign of an obstacle is short term thinking - and in the scheme of things - the investment in this project is modest. He has a goal of making SFO carbon neutral by 2020 (see video on second life) and I think it is a worthy goal. We should be leaders in this space not laggards.

I get his philosophy. At a speech Newsom gave to the Indian American community - he articulated why he loves San Francisco - he said the secret sauce that defines San Francisco is that it is a diverse city (39% born outside the US) where "Dreamers become doers".

So Mr. Treehugger analyst, I disagree with your advice to the Mayor - I do not agree that it is inappropriate use of money to invest in cutting edge research. I agree with Newsom -if we don't do it who will?

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