Five Ideas

Sunday, June 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:05 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[1] Rising Emissions

A report by Columbia’s Water and Light department shows that the city’s carbon dioxide emissions have grown almost 10 percent from their 2000 level. Columbia is now 13.5 percent away from a reduction goal laid out a year ago.

Last July, the City Council signed a modified version of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which asks cities across the country to take local action to reduce global warming. One of the city’s goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent by 2012, compared to 2000 levels.

Instead, carbon dioxide emissions rose 9.5 percent to 2.91 million in 2005, the most recent year for which data are available. To meet its original goal, the city must reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 13.5 percent.

Water and Light said potential steps that Columbia can take to reduce emissions include new building codes, preservation of trees and open spaces, incentive programs for public transportation and improvements to traffic flow. Public education and outreach to utility customers are also areas of focus. Buying more efficient appliances, for instance, can make a difference in energy conservation.

How do you think city officials can promote energy conservation in Columbia?

[2] Continuous Education

At Thursday’s school board meeting, Columbia Board of Education Vice President Darin Preis suggested that the Columbia Public Schools begin looking at the possibility of year-round schools in Columbia, because it’s often hard for students to remember what they learned during the school year over the long summer break.

Preis said the district is “doing a disservice” with the traditional nine-month school year and needed to consult with other districts and even other nations for more information on a yearlong calendar.

Board member Jan Mees suggested starting that discussion with the school board committees for new school construction and redistricting. Those committees will meet for the first time at 8:30 a.m. today in the Columbia Public Schools’ administration building and the meeting is open to the public.

In what ways do you think year-round schooling would benefit or hinder Columbia students?

[3] Alcohol in the Park

Columbia’s Substance Abuse Advisory Commission has taken issue with a proposal that would permit special-occasion sales of beer, wine and champagne in city parks.

The concern is that if the proposal is accepted as is, it could contribute to the lack of control over alcohol consumption.

Alcohol consumption is currently allowed in city parks as long as people bring their own drinks.

The Parks and Recreation Commission decided at its meeting to hold a public hearing concerning the draft at their July meeting.

What effects would alcohol sales in parks have on alcohol consumption at park events?

[4]Stem Cell VETO

President Bush recently vetoed a stem cell bill for the second time in less than a year. Bush announced no new federal dollars for stem cell research, which supporters say holds the promise of disease cures. His executive order would not allow researchers to do anything they couldn’t do under existing restrictions.

The order encourages scientists to work with the government to add other kinds of stem cell research to the list of projects eligible for federal funding — so long as it does not create, harm or destroy human embryos.

Senate Democrats were expected to begin the process by trying to add embryonic stem cell legislation this week to a must-pass appropriations bill for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments.

What would you be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of science?

[5]Renewable Energy

The U.S. Senate passed an energy bill that includes an increase in automobile fuel economy, new laws against energy price-gouging and a requirement for large increases in the production of ethanol.

An agreement was reached to increase average fuel economy by 40 percent to 35 miles per gallon for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks by 2020.

The White House said the president would be urged to veto an energy bill that includes the price-gouging measure, arguing it amounts to price controls. The president also has said he opposes Congress mandating a specific mileage number for auto fuel economy.

It would be the first increase in vehicle fuel efficiency since the current 22.7 mpg for cars was put in place in 1989 and the first time Congress has imposed a new auto efficiency mandate in 32 years.

The bill’s supporters said it reflects a shift to new energy priorities, away from promoting fossil fuels to supporting other energy sources such as wind and biomass to make electricity and ethanol to power cars and trucks.

What do you think is the next step in the campaign for alternative energy sources?

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