The Say-Town Lowdown 

Was it something we said about Al Gore?

Less than two weeks after the San Antonio Express-News crashed a raging party of idealistic architects and ruthlessly dressed the last “next President of the United States” in flirtatiously adoring ink, Big Brother Clinton dropped a bomb.

Never a slouch at wringing money out of rich folk, “Big Mac” Clinton announced he had secured billions of charitable dollars from several of the world’s filthiest — I mean wealthiest — banks. The expected $5 billion in loans from such titans as JP Morgan Chase and Deutsche Bank is to be divvied up between 16 international cities for a massive round of hide the light bulb.

I’m fairly certain that the Express-News’ comparison of this do-gooder gathering to a Kookie Klux Klanner rally had no bearing on the decision to funnel funds to Houston rather than Alamo City, but it makes for interesting speculation.

The rules of Clinton’s Climate Initiative are fairly simple: The first mayor, in this case New York City’s Michael Bloomberg, cradles an energy-efficient CFC light bulb beneath his gobbler. The frosted bulb is then passed neck-to-neck to a second mayor, here played by Houston’s Mayor Bill White. Participants are barred from using their hands and must resist breaking into lusty face-mopping. These esteemed mayors are then expected to ring the globe with energy-saving bulbs.

The first one to shudder, or ask if these energy savers aren’t in fact laden with toxic mercury, is disqualified.

Clinton announced the initiative in New York last week. As the nation’s most populous city, NYC certainly deserves its share at the trough. One could even argue that the already-low energy use of typical households in the Big Apple may even earn them double-merits. New York City homes — crackerjack apartments though they be — use an average of 4,700 kilowatts-per-hour, roughly the same as 17 agitated goldfish.

By contrast, homeowners in Houston consume almost 10 times as much. Energy City’s place in Clinton’s program appears secure by the light of its own hoggishness.

Other cities included are “bright lights” such as Chicago, Toronto, London, Berlin, and Tokyo — you know, the folks that brought Global Warming to the world in the first place — as well as First World-labor pools like Bangkok, Thailand; Mumbai, India; and Seoul, South Korea.

Beyond the light-bulb challenge, Clinton’s initiative will involve such dynamic upgrades as pouring white paint on city skylines to deflect pesky solar activity and replacing leaky windows. This isn’t to suggest that these upgrades aren’t significant — they are.

In fact, a well-run campaign against energy waste in Texas, so long overdue, would make the whole TXU debate about coal power immaterial. It could literally make the handful of new plants still being pressed for by this greenwashed utility unnecessary. However, in a state where not even the charity dollars I’m sure each and every one of you includes in your monthly electric bills are safe from the Capitol’s hydra-headed, special-interest lobby (otherwise known as our elected representatives), well, the chances of reform from within are slim.

There will be those who will gripe that this city or that should have been rolled into the program, but keep in mind that these things have a way of spreading themselves around. Already Clinton is suggesting a second kilowatt dragnet in the near future. Perhaps by 2020 or so, someone may actually notice that it was not Mayor White in Houston, but the mayors in Dallas, Austin, Denton, and — yes — San Antonio, along with 13 other Texas cities that actually dared challenge the White House on Global Warming by committing themselves to the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. These brave mayors pledged to try to meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol despite the fact that our Chief Decider balked.

Efficiency, the best-kept secret in this overly politicized and too-often-disingenuous debate, should be square one in the fight on climate disruption. The repairs are simple, obvious, and cost money. In recognizing this and hunting down the loot, I grudgingly give Clinton praise. But I have to wonder: Why does it always seem to take an ex-president to do the right thing?

What happens to good intentions and lofty promises when they pass through those halls of power anyway? Too many hands, no doubt. Too many hands and not enough face-mopping. 


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