Education in Oakland

Stockholm Syndrome

Posted by novometro on October 4, 2006

Heeding the warnings of the peak oil movement, which is sometimes described as “Left Behind” for lefties, City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel wants to create an 11-person task force aimed at making Oakland oil-independent by 2020. If the task force leads to official policy, Oakland would join Sweden in planning to be free of oil in 14 years. It makes sound business sense. The green economy is booming and Oakland is well-positioned to take more than its share of the profits.


10 Responses to “Stockholm Syndrome”

  1. How can we become oil-independent in fourteen years? That’s ridiculous. 55% of working Oaklanders commute to work by car, alone. It seems that improving transit (and buying expensive, fossil-fuel-sourced hydrogen buses is extremely counterproductive) would be a lot more effective than some pie-in-the-sky “independence” task-force. Encouraging green businesses is not the same as oil independence. Although, given that we are ill-positioned, as dense urban area, to produce “green” energy, what else can we do? Recruiting solar panel factories might be nice, but will we end up giving away the store to lure them?

    Also, didn’t Nadel criticize Dellums’ task-force approach during the mayoral campaign? It seems that the point of the task-force is to, one, create some good PR for Oakland (which is fine, but staff resources and valuable public meeting time will be spent), and two, think of some ideas to recommend to the council. Do we really believe that 11 Oakland appointees will come up with better ideas than state, regional or national initiatives?

    Finally, for all of the task-force resolution’s talk about transit-oriented development, Councilmember Nadel is pushing a $100,000-per-bedroom fee on transit-oriented high-density condo developments, and specifically exempts car-oriented speculative mansions in the hills. Nice.

  2. novometro said

    A green economy means much more than the production of renewable or clean energy. It’s everything from micro-fuel cells for portable devices to certain types of nanotechnology. It’s also consulting and research. Oakland is well-positioned because of its proximity to universities and its large pool of educated citizens.

  3. That’s very interesting and sounds promising. I would allocate scarce staff resources to recruitng trade-oriented companies, but I wasn’t elected mayor. Neither was Nancy Nadel. Wouldn’t this task force, which is not specifically devoted to encouraging green business, duplicate (or conflict with) a mayoral initiative to promote a green economy?

    The resolution talks about ways to encourage conservation, such as line-drying clothes. The state already spends huge sums promoting conservation, and we can reasonably expect it to spend more in the future. I don’t see that there’s anything an 11-member task force could do that our neighboring research institutions aren’t already doing.

  4. novometro said

    Ron Dellums’ frequent pledges to create a raft of new task forces was possibly the least-inspiring element of his campaign. In my mind, task force symbolizes almost the opposite of what the two words mean on their own. Still, a task force is one way to establish new policy inside City Hall. It’s also a way for a politician to grandstand. But I doubt very much that Oaklanders who want the city to be on the cutting edge of the green economy care if it’s Mr. Dellums or Nancy Nadel who gets the movement going. I doubt very much many Oaklanders even know who Nancy Nadel is.

    I don’t view the possibility of a task force as a rival to the state or local institutions. Cities like Oakland have a long history of incubating nascent social and political trends that grew up to become statewide and even national movements. See Chris Rhomberg’s “No There There: Race, Class, and Political Community in Oakland.”

    One doesn’t have to subscribe to the peak oil movement’s Road Warrior vision of the future to see that the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels harms more than the environment. I would be glad if Oakland added its voice to the growing number of citizens, cities, states, and institutions planning for a time when oil is no longer king.

  5. The task-force resolution says little about the green economy. You are conflating two separate issues – oil independence (which is about conservation, technological development, and state-level policies) and a green economy (which can be a local initiative to recruit new businesses). Environmental sensitivity is far from a “nascent trend.” This task force is a distraction from an ancticipated mayoral initiative, and would indeed conflict with it in terms of staff time and citizen involvement. I strongly disagree with your assertion that Oaklanders don’t care who’s in charge (the task-force is primarily appointed by the council, and if passed soon, perhaps the mayoral appointees would be Brown’s), and our divisive mayoral election is a clear indication of that.

    In addition, the hypocrisy and counterproductive nature of many of the city’s current programs belie any sort of serious commitment to a “sustainable” city. From AC Transit’s absurdly wasteful hydrogen fueling stations (derived from fossil fuels) to anticipated fees on transit-oriented development, Oakland is taking some very large steps in the wrong direction. Yet another time-wasting task force is not the answer.

  6. novometro said

    Environmental sensitivity is not the same as planning for the end of the oil economy, which is hardly mainstream public policy. Although, i suspect it will become more so.

    Perhaps the election was divisive in some quarters. But when less than one in two people registered to vote in Oakland cast a vote last June, it is difficult to claim that there was a lot of interest in our local politicians.

  7. The idea that Oakland, on its own, can plan for “the end of the oil economy” with a task-force is laughable. Only in Nancy Nadel’s mind could line-drying clothes while stopping transit-oriented downtown development help us move past oil (of course, dense development has no space for clotheslines). Again, the city is going very seriously off-track with anti-transit “inclusionary zoning” proposals and counterproductive experiments with our bus system (the $21m that paid for three buses to run on gas-derived hydrogen could have expanded the system significantly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but is instead wasted on a splashy PR program for Chevron).

    Oakland’s June turnout was far higher than the statewide average (45% versus 28%). Even so, if there’s no interest in local poiticians, every city councilmember should just appoint their own task-force to do whatever? Confusion and policy paralysis were a hallmark of Oakland before Jerry Brown – are you advocating a return to those days?

    We have a new mayor – I didn’t vote for him, but I recognize that he’s in charge. Let’s let him engage in long-term planning.

  8. novometro said

    The idea that Oakland can add its voice to a movement that many people support, but fails to attract the attention of politicians in Washington D.C. is not laughable. I’m willing to allow that there are purely political motives involved here that you can discern, and I cannot. But if one supports the idea in principle, then the author of the resolution is not important, nor are her positions on other matters.

    We have a new mayor, so the City Council should not advance their own ideas?

  9. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the council to propose measures that were major parts of Dellums’ platform or initiatives it is obvous he will direct his staff to undertake once he becomes mayor. And clearly the last thing City Hall needs right now is another task force, even if it’s one free of Dellums appointees.

    We should just pass a resolution urging the state and federal government to engage in long-term planning to for the end of oil. They have the resources to do justice to this ambitious goal.

  10. Michael Mahoney said

    The difference between Peak Oil and Left Behind is that Peak Oil will happen (if it hasn’t already). Even those radicals at the US Geological Survey only foresee about another 50 years of economical petroleum production, in gradually declining amounts. It’s a finite resource for which there is growing demand, after all. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’ll all find ourselves living like we’re in Road Warrior: alternative fuel sources and efficiency gains will soften the blow. MRM

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