Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What lesson can we learn from Missouri?

Guys, have you even been to America? If yes, for sure you know that each state has a nickname. The Americans are very proud of this, and most of them happily sport the moniker on their car license plates. Many of these nicknames seem to make perfect sense. For instance, California, which is home to the gold rush of the mid-19th century, is called The Golden State. Florida, the southernmost mainland state, is called The Sunshine State.

Other states resemble natural or manmade wonders – Arizona is The Grand Canyon State, while South Dakota is Mount Rushmore State. Some are simple; you would not get a prize for knowing that New York was The Empire State. Others however, are contradictory; Wyoming is known as either The Equality State or The Cowboy State. Still more are immeasurable. Why Missouri is called The Show Me State?

If you travel to Missouri to ask this question, certainly you will met with a variety of stories about heroic local politicians and miner’s strikes, all with reference to the skeptical nature of the state’s denizens.

A Missourian, it is said, does not believe anything without proof. This maybe the reason why it has one of the highest percentage rates of smokers in the USA.

All this brings us to a more serious point. Barely a day goes by when we are not bombarded with people telling us that our planet is in trouble. Most think it’s entirely our own fault, others think it’s a natural climate cycle. But we can all agree that burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas, etc.) is a dirty, wasteful, expensive and negligent way to generate electricity.

All of us, that is, except for the residents of the Show Me State, who need proof. As a result, a two-horse town called Rock Port, Missouri, has become the first community in the US to be powered exclusively by wind. The “city” (another American idiosyncrasy: it has 1,300 residents) erected four wind turbines, predicted to generate 16 million kilowatt hours of power each year.

Since Rock Port only uses about 13 million kW, it’s free to sell the other three million to the state’s joint municipal utilities, and hopes to freeze power prices for the next quarter century – good news for residents and businesses, not to mention whoever pays the bill for the town’s only traffic signal. The turbines may be a blot on the landscape, but this is a state with half a McDonald’s logo in pride of place in its largest city.

Missouri has been shown. It has become a believer in sustainable, clean power from a natural resource. And if somewhere with a reputation for stubborn incredibility can be persuaded, why is it taking the rest of us so long? Missouri is teaching us.