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Simple Steps

Written by Robert Shields

I am deeply saddened to see how our elected representatives are addressing fiscal responsibility.  I am disappointed in the Assembly members who thought it was a good idea to put the Mary Siah Recreation Center at the forefront of the effort to raise taxes. Pitting neighbor against neighbor and stonewalling the efforts of local advocates by sending the false message “if you want to save the building you must vote to raise taxes.” Equally shameful is the effort to ask voters to pass a bond.  A commitment of financial bondage to our children on top of the Healy 2 and Pentex purchases (which many people feel are lemons) that we as a community, through elected leaders, have already taken on. Generational debt which could have built a new 21stcentury grid.

I know we are in a tough spot, but there are solutions and with 20 years of focused education, professional experience and near obsessive commitment, I am 100% confident the money we need is falling from the sky, growing like weeds in the grounds, and buried in our trash. To start, we take the simple steps.

To achieve good schools, turn them into solar farms. To achieve affordable energy and clean air do the same to the municipal buildings. To achieve a lower cost of living and a higher quality of life convert the residential market. There are multiple success stories, multiple sources of financing and I promise you, once we bite into this low hanging fruit, the future of the Fairbanks North Star Borough will become much brighter. A path towards generational prosperity will become crystal clear.  Distributed energy resources are renewable and abundant.  They provide a long-term, low risk investments with a fixed fuel cost of zero.  They can be scaled to meet growth demand and paired with other sources for redundancy, security, and energy independence. This includes the variety of chemical and thermal storage options that can carry us through the cold and dark.

According to world class researchers, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the level of technology has shifted the economics to the point where it is more cost effective to build a network of microgrids that can deliver renewable energy for pennies on the dollar to the masses than it is to continue operating the existing grid.  The future of this community and this planet is centered on our ability to replace our current energy system with one that will serve the future for the next 100 years.  The investments, the choices we make today will have a profound impact on generations of Alaskans. I strongly urge everyone to get involved so we can get it right.  There are far too many empty seats and too little public oversite to stand against what can only be called “shenanigans” by members of the Interior Gas Utility (IGU) board intent on pursuing Pentex at all cost; which according to the EPA is $125 million.

The IGU should really be called the Interior Energy Utility because with GVEA as an anchor client, the work being done is no less than building the foundation of new energy grid to serve the Interior for the next 100 years.  With the military bases and University in proximity but with their own microgrids, we are already familiar with the process and just need to shift fuel sources to something more affordable, reliable, and that produces zero pollution.

Saving energy saves everything and in this case, the avoided cost of energy quickly surpasses hundreds of millions of dollars.  Those avoided costs are the first immediate benefit from making the shift which if wisely reinvested will continue to multiple in yield.  Those yields should be more than enough to provide good education, catch up on deferred maintenance and start making investments in resilient infrastructure, like a community reclamation center, that continues to build on our ability to make the things we need and want, including an abundance of locally grown food choices.

On this path towards generational prosperity, we would see new aerospace and data mining companies come to town. Maker markets that use our trash to build everything from tools and toys to the houses needed to meet growing demand.  The preservation of our wild life and wild lands would become a great financial resource through the Geotourism. A cultural immersion experience that shares language, culture and tradition as the method of preservation of future generations. An industry that uses camera shots to capture the beauty and abundance of the land without spoil.


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Robert Shields

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