Good morning, Tom Jensen

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Good morning, Tom Jensen. Thanks for joining us for live-blogging this morning.

As many of you know, Tom writes a weekly column about state and local politics for the Chapel Hill Herald. Last fall, he started working as the head of the 'Cool Cities' campaign for the North Carolina Sierra Club. When he began work in November there were 5 Cool Cities in North Carolina. Now there are 19. Tom also instituted the Sierra Club blog.

Got questions?


Many hats . . .

Tom, you wear many hats. Which are your favorites?

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. . . and

what's a young guy like you doing with all those hats in the first place?


Thanks again Anglico for the

Thanks again Anglico for the invitation.

I have been very lucky to have a lot of people give me the opportunity to prove myself in positions of responsibility, when they may have been taking a risk by doing it. I can't say enough about my boss here at the Sierra Club, Molly Diggins. I was the second consecutive major hire she made of somebody right out of college. The first was actually my predecessor as the statewide College Democrats President, Elizabeth Self. I guess that position is the pipeline to the Sierra Club! She was our lobbyist for a year and is now the legislative liaison for DENR. Molly didn't have to hire either of us but I hope she's glad she did.

Same thing with my gig as the vice chair of the Chapel Hill Planning Board. The Town Council appointed me as an undergrad and I think some people raised their eyebrows at it, but I've worked very hard and my peers decided to appoint me as an officer for this year.

My point is that I understand that it can be risky to give young people opportunities but it can often be very rewarding. Justing, who posts here and runs Public Policy Polling, was my college roommate. He does an outstanding job over there. I don't really know Blue South beyond this blog, but what an amazing guy. I'm happy for the Edwards folks, but I wish he was working down here.

Put your faith in us and we'll give you all we've got.


Thanks a bunch for the kind words. The joy of an early primary season is that it makes it that much more likely that I could be back in NC for 2008. Which, summers not withstanding, is where I would rather be anyway.

But, I love my new job. Its a ton of fun.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

Here in the nick of time!

Here in the nick of time! This is one of those mornings when I'm frustrated with the cause of public transportation shooting itself in the foot. I take the bus from home in Chapel Hill to work in Raleigh every day and this morning went to take the 7:30 bus so I could get to work by 8:25. Never showed up. So the 8 o'clock bus got me here at 8:58. Nonetheless the Triangle Transit Authority does a good job 95% of the time and I encourage anyone who lives in this neck of the woods to take advantage of it.

Walking the talk

Nice. It takes a big commitment to stick with public transit around these parts.

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At the end of the day I

At the end of the day I don't enjoy anything I do more than working on campaigns and putting the right kind of people in office. In 2004 Justing and I had to do a lot of the decision making about how the considerable volunteer resources of the UNC Young Democrats would be allocated to campaigns across the state, and we ended up doing more work for Grier Martin than anyone else. He squeaked through against the Republican incumbent and needless to say could not have done us a whole lot more proud.

I'll happily join the Grier for Senate caucus. Frankly if he manages to get up there he'll be in the Presidential picture by 2016. Wouldn't that be an awesome thing!

Got Answers?

How do you convince a city or a county to join 'Cool cities'?

What do they have to do and what can you say to convince them it's in their best interest to join?

The Cool Cities program

The Cool Cities program entails signing onto the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which was constructed in early 2005 to give local governments an outlet for taking care of global warming in the face of federal inaction.

The real key to the program is that there is no one size fits all approach to cities taking the lead on this issue- every community based on its location and size needs to do what's most appropriate to its local situation. I have found that that message really resonates with folks- that this is a community driven program and not something the Sierra Club is trying to impose on them.

I don't go around giving bleeding heart speeches about global warming. That's just not going to fly in most of North Carolina. So mostly I emphasize that it gives local governments an opportunity to take leadership on a major issue and improve their quality of life. Many of the things communities do to work toward their goals actually end up saving the taxpayers money over time. Becoming a Cool City has inspired civic pride in a lot of the places where they've done it.

I loved this article in Michigan this morning- a county commissioner said he doesn't believe in global warming but he wants to do this because it will reduce energy costs. I don't care how you get there, as long as you do.

It was referred on Wednesday

It was referred on Wednesday to the Senate Committee on Appropriations/Base Budget, which includes pretty much all of the Senators, so nobody where anyone is in the state it would probably be worth shooting your Senator an e-mail and telling them to support this bill. If government is going to ask citizens to look out for the environment in their daily lives, then it should be taking the lead and this bill is a great means toward that end.

I see Mecklenburg County on that list

but I don't see Charlotte individually...... Will air quality keep Charlotte off the list? It's terrible. What can we do?

[edit]Ooops...sorry, Tom, forgot to thank you for taking the time to stop by and chat.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Betsy, Thank you so much for


Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I'm looking forward to a bluer Lincoln County sooner than later!

The Charlotte City Council decided in a split vote in late May not to sign onto the Cool Cities program because it wanted to do an inventory of its greenhouse gas emissions before committing to any specific targets. We were hoping they would set an initial target of a 15% reduction from current levels by 2012, operating on the assumption that regardless of what the current levels are they should be able to drop them that much.

I understand where the city is coming from though and I am confident that after doing the inventory the city will set a strong enough target that we can give it the 'Cool Cities' designation. Charlotte is doing a lot of good work on the environment already, including a model vehicle fleet for increased fuel efficiency.

Look South, young man

My husband pulled a quick one and found a house in Union county that the rest of us just couldn't say no to. I bet I have as much work to do in Union as I would have in Lincoln.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

That was a quick switch!

That was a quick switch! I've been following this story in Union County. Pretty fascinating.

Yep...been following that one myself

I would love to have a chance to work hard to get a Dem elected to the county commission here in Union.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

While attending our county's Gov 101 class

I was surprised to learn that Moore County doesn't capture methane at our county landfill, nor are they looking into alternative fuel for the county's fleet. When asked why, they seemed surprised by the question, as if they really hadn't thought about it. Their only answer was that it was just too costly. Do you know if this is true about capturing methane? What will it take for Counties to lead the way in fuel efficiency?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions

Great to see you here Momo!

Great to see you here Momo! We miss you!

Your question gives me an opportunity to give some major props to my summer intern. His name is Matt Rumsey and he's the starting center on Duke's football team! I'm about the most passionate Tar Heel out there so it's taken some getting used to but he has done an outstanding job.

The project he's worked on is preparing a best practices guide to local government environmental initiatives across the state.

Greensboro has a good methane reclamation program:

Methane Gas Reclamation:
In 1995, the City of Greensboro entered into an agreement with Duke Energy to develop a renewable energy recovery system at the White Street Landfill in Greensboro. This system collects and transports methane gas that is created by the decomposition of organic materials found in the landfill. The gas is collected from the White Street Landfill through a series of pipes that have been placed below the surface of the waste. The gas is then transported to the program’s industrial partner, Cone Mills, by way of a three-mile pipeline. The gas is burned in boilers to generate steam in order to operate machinery in the Cone Mills’ textile plant. The methane is sold to Cone Mills at a lower cost than other natural gases, thereby lowering their utility costs. Also, Duke Energy received tax credits for their construction and continued operation of the gas collection system. The City of Greensboro receives around $30,000 to $40,000 annually from the sale of the landfill gas. Duke Energy spends around $275,000 annually to operate the system.
What it will take for counties to lead the way in fuel efficiency is the will to do it. When they say they can't, for the most part it's because it's too far outside the box. Hillsborough has a population of 6,162 and has hybrids in its vehicle fleet so it's not a size issue.

We've got a great Moore County presence on BlueNC. If there's anything I can do to help out let me know.

What about LFG for Orange County

Tom, our local landfill folks have made LFG appear too expensive an option, primarily because they envisage a huge reclamation system and piping the gas far off-site. What's your thoughts on on-site use, pilot projects and getting local leadership to use this currently wasted resource?

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class


I know that NC State has a few clean burning buses in their fleet, but they cant add more because they dont have the cash. Same with TTA, etc. Are there bills or programs looking to increase the funding for these buses so that we can have as clean as possible public transport, in addition to expanding public transportation as we become more urban?

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

Many Korean Buses are LPG

can our buses be converted? I believe theirs were. They weren't all new - that much I know.

Taxis, too ...

Hey Blue, As much as it's

Hey Blue,

As much as it's going to suck spending the winter up there I hope you're enjoying it now. I can't believe how hot it's been this week down here. (Or is it even very cool in New Hampshire during the summer?)

You're right about the importance of grant money to using cleaner fuels. Unfortunately without that extra spark it is often cost prohibitive.

Hate to say anything nice about State, but they're doing a great job at the North Carolina Solar Center at NCSU in giving out grants to local governments for cleaner fuel programs. The most recent application period just ended, but you can read about it here if you're interested.

The Wake and Mecklenburg County school systems are trying out some hybrid buses right now as well. They, too, are funded by a grant but I'm hoping that if the trial works out they'll find ways to broaden it in the future. More info here.


Its less humid and cooler, but still a true East Coast city in July.

Have there been any studies of savings from moving towards electric busses or clean energy? What I mean is that it seems like even though the initial cost might be prohibitively high, if we could show enough savings to say, "yes but after x years you will have hit zero and start saving money..." we might be able to sell it.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

clean buses

I know that Chapel Hill Transit is buying SOME hybrid buses. But, while they wanted and were apparently willing to buy all hybrid buses, they were worried that it was basically "Beta" technology. I think that as the technology becomes more common, the prices become more competitive, you will see a lot more hybrid buses on the road.
If I misinterpret CHT's thoughts, my apologies.
One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Good morning Tom,

happy you're here.

I know Cool Cities did a presentation to Guilford County Progressive Democrats but I wasn't present and I'm curious if anything has moved forward for Greensboro?

Yes! Actually the major

Yes! Actually the major action point for Greensboro I believe is going to be this upcoming Tuesday. The City Council was formally presented with the program in May and was generally favorable toward it. The issue's up for a second briefing at the City Council meeting next week with action likely next month.

Councilman Tom Phillips has submitted a watered down alternative resolution to the one that has been passed by more than 600 cities across the country and 19 here in North Carolina. We will be advocating that the Council stick with the original plan. I think they are going to informally decide which one to go with next week before the final vote.

Contact your officials if you get a chance! Greensboro would be the biggest Cool City in North Carolina, and we hope that the joint leadership shown by it and Winston-Salem (which already signed on) will help bring many of the smaller communities in the Triad along as well. There's no city too small to be a leader!

Sierra Club positions

Can you summarize where the Sierra Club stands on the Energy Bill currently being hammered out in the General Assembly.

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The Sierra Club was one of

The Sierra Club was one of 16 environmental groups that sent a letter last week to legislative leaders expressing concerns about the bill in its current form. I don't feel comfortable saying much more than that since the legislature isn't my beat. With the way things have been constantly moving on this bill I don't want to say anything wrong!

Whoops...wrong bill


Marshall Adame
2014 U.S. Congress Candidate NC-03

It's almost 10:30 and

we may lose Tom at any moment . . .

so let me take this opportunity to thank him (and the Sierra Club) for spending time this morning with us. Tom is a frequent visitor, so I'm sure he'll circle back to answer questions you might have.

Thanks for all you do, Tom Jensen. And thanks for joining us today.

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Thank you again for the

Thank you again for the invitation Anglico. I'll certainly be around to answer any other questions folks are interested in asking.

And if anyone wants to get a Cool Cities campaign going in their community, I hope they'll contact me. My info is available on our blog.

Sorry I missed this discussion

Thanks for coming by, Tom. The Sierra Club is awesome, and their website is a great resource for folks like me trying to learn about clean sustainable energy.