Thursday, June 24, 2010

Green Bike Tour 2010 — A Success for Educating About Energy, Climate

Our latest Green Bike Tour was a great success. The poster above shows the 300 km route overlaying a map of Slovenia.

We look forward to riding again, to illustrate as we have on every tour that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous, that clean, renewable energy is our solution, and that local people make money with green development and we can in Iowa as well.

— David Osterberg, June 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Conclusions of a Green Biker

“The market for solar photovoltaic systems is increasing as the cost of installation goes down. In an effort to stimulate growth, Slovenia has set aside 70 million Euros for a feed-in tariff to help consumers pay for these systems. The country has a goal of establishing 300 megawatts of solar power by 2020.

“Iowa clearly needs to pursue this type of technology. We need to develop state policy to support this growing industry, addressing consumer demand, workforce skill development and financing incentives.”

— Excerpt of Joe Bolkcom's concluding blog post from the 2010 Green Bike Tour. See the whole post here:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 7: Salt, Geography, History — and Our Conclusion

After seven days, our Green Bike Tour has taken us around half of Slovenia, from Nova Gorica on the west at the Italian border, through the capital city of Ljubljana, to Lake Bled in the north near Austria, and to Piran near the Croatian border.

We have seen how Slovenians use solar power in many ways — with modern examples such as solar panels arrayed on a hydroelectric plant — and at Piran, we saw how solar power has helped the local economy for centuries. (Photos at right and below)

At Piran, this happens in salt-making. For centuries, local people have channeled sea water onto the flats, dammed them off, and let the sun evaporate the salt. They raked the salt into piles and sold it around the world.

On our Friday ride, our final day on the Tour, we passed mountains that were the scene of one of the great engagements of World War I as the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies fought over two years to a draw, before the Germans entered and drove the Italians back to just north of Venice. This is where Ernest Hemingway drove an ambulance for the Italians and wrote A Farewell to Arms. The museum in Kobarid has three pages from Hemingway’s draft of the book. On the wall were the first page, the last and another, which mentions Kobarid.

The 2010 Green Bike Tour accomplished what we set out to do each time we ride: to link policy makers, educators, students, environmentalists and renewable energy strategists and pioneers. We are bringing home examples of how Europe is replacing fossil fuels with more sustainable options — and this time we can share examples from home as well. Unlike our trip to Northern Europe in 2002, where we learned about what was happening in hopes we could spark interest in Iowa, this time we could share the advances being made in Iowa, where we produce 20 percent of our electricity from wind power. Our performance in Iowa puts us on par with the leading European country, Denmark. But we know we need to do more.

It is undeniable that humans are causing the Earth's climate to change. We must replace dirty, polluting fossil fuels with clean energy. This trip shows it not only is possible, but it can help our economy. It's a mistake to focus on short-term costs of change without recognizing the benefits for both the short and long term. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and small hydroelectric dams bring an economic boost to a local area. Clean sources of energy can fuel more than our homes and industries. They can fuel our economy.

(Posted by David Osterberg)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 6: Thursday, over the Alps, under the Sun — Friday, on the Web

The Green Bike Tour has linked policy makers, solar energy production sites, environmental groups and research institutions in Slovenia all this week. Today, we traveled up over the edge of the Alps. We passed several solar sites since solar is the perfect distributed electricity generation alternative where it is difficult to get power lines installed and storms tend to disrupt service.

On Friday morning, we have a chance to tell you about it directly with a webinar that we welcome you to join.

We mainly spent our Thursday riding to the end of one river valley and up and over the mountains to the next. The main planning work of the day was for Friday's webinar, to solidify arrangements with University of Iowa Professor Tom Cook, who has been on most of the most recent Green Bike tours.

Tom has set up a link for a university-to-university hookup, which we will make Friday at 10 a.m. Iowa time. Professor Mladen Franko of the University of Nova Gorica (UNG) will make some remarks about the value of international education and Iowans Joe Bolkcom, John Moreland, Ed Woolsey and David Osterberg will report on the weeklong tour of renewable energy in Slovenia.

The university sponsors at the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center will be linked to UNG as will our other sponsor, the Iowa Policy Project. We welcome everyone. It is very easy to engage in distance education and the commencement of our tour via the Elluminate link below.

Simply copy the link in your browser, put in your name and initials and you can participate. You can just listen or listen and ask questions. The technology is very user friendly. The Green Bike team hopes to see many Iowans on our reporting session Friday at 10 a.m. Iowa time.

(Posted by David Osterberg. Also see David's daily Des Moines Register blog posts from the tour, and Joe Bolkcom's updates as well.)

Day 5: Slovenians show innovation in schools

Much of every Green Bike Tour is about education, where we and the people we encounter learn more about renewable energy options. The Slovenia tour this year is no different in that way, but on Wednesday there was a twist: one visit provided education about education.

Our ride Wednesday from Lake Bled to Skofja Loka — about 25 miles by road but about 40 taking the route we rode — included a stop at the Biotehniski Center Naklo, which is known as a “biotechnical high school." It is a high school and junior college dedicated to the environment.

About 700 students take courses in horticulture, nature conservation, agriculture (greenhouse gardening scale) and many other areas that emphasize nature. Like Iowa, Slovenia is going through a reduction in school-age population, yet this school expanded its student body last year.

We met with 10 students and four teachers, including the vice principal. I talked with four girls who all wanted to be nature guides, and Joe Bolkcom had a long conversation with a boy whose family had a commercial orchard that he wanted to take over.

Just a short ride from Skofja Loka is the village of Suha, where Senator Tom Harkin’s mother was born and lived for 21 years before emigrating to America. We visited the small and ornate 15th century church there and took photos going into the town, so John Moreland, a member of Senator Harkin’s staff, could document our visit. Slovenians are proud to have three members of the United States Senate of Slovenian descent, Senator Harkin, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Senator George Voinovich of Ohio.

(These posts are from IPP executive director David Osterberg. Read his longer daily posts on the Des Moines Register blog. Also follow Joe Bolkcom's posts.)


The Green Bike Tour is sponsored by The University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The Iowa Policy Project, and The Fred & Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Kelly Webworks.