From: Bruce Sterling <>
Subject: Viridian Note 00136: GreenChoice Editorial
To: Viridian List <>

Key concepts: utility deregulation, renewable energy,
Austin, Texas, newspapers, propaganda

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Source: Austin American-Statesman, editorial page, A-13,
February 12, 2000

Austin's Future is Powerful

by Bruce Sterling

It hasn't yet achieved the stirring fanfare it deserves, but we Austinites have the cheapest Green energy program in the nation.

You can click on an Austin website ( and buy clean, renewable Texan solar and wind power to run your Austin business and your Austin home through Austin Energy's GreenChoice program.

Let me tell you, at some length and with total, passionate conviction, why it is that all us Austinites should do this.

Ladies and gentlemen, we Austinites no longer have to pay any of our hard-earned money for nuclear or coal. This is the year 2000, and our situation is new and improved. Our mayor and our city council are doing the right and proper thing with this Green Choice program.

Oh yes, I know that's hard to believe == after 28
years living here, I'm a skeptic myself == but during those shining moments when one's local government does something genuinely farsighted and sensible, it behooves one to jump right up and cheer. Let me do so. Marketing clean energy is a genius move. It is a direct, practical, hands-on, real-world way forward for our city.

Think of it this way. Remember way back in the early
1980s, when the city was cutting all those deals with non- polluting, high-tech computer industries? Well, that was a canny industrial-policy move, very much like this one. It looked a little futuristic and unlikely, but it paid- off big time. That is why this newspaper has an entire high-tech section full of home-made millionaires. That is why we are not Houston now. Aren't you glad we're not Houston? Houston is the smoggiest city in America.

We got ahead of the technological curve, and we
got ahead of the skeptics, and we did something smart. And it worked. After decades of being that hippie-dog- neckerchief, tamale-eatin' river town, we are the cutting- edge. We have an influence on the future of American life which is way out of proportion to our numbers. Because we have what the New Economy wants: brains, initiative, daring, capital, and, especially, high quality of life.

So far, so good. Initiative, we've got. We're not gonna get any dumber here. Money is all over this city like never before. Quality of life, that is our weak point. A very weak point. An agony for us, even. For decades on end, we've obsessed about that. It's been at the heart of every sign-waving, eco-neighborhood trauma, and every cement-spewing developer squabble here since Earth Day 1970. It is our torment.

And we are losing, just like Houston. The EPA is
on Austin's case right now. We're choking in smoke from our streams of shiny new cars. Smoke from all our computer keyboards. A computer is "clean industry," but coal plants are a computer's biggest and ugliest desktop peripherals.

Austin's high tech can't run for one nanosecond
without electric power. We use a lot of electrical power here == and it's dirty power. This simply should not be. We are allowing our own success to ruin our great situation here. We are bringing this directly on ourselves. There is no one else to blame for this. There isn't any place to hide from the air. But now we can grapple with this thing head-on: new, clean power is here. It's 2000, it's time to move forward.

You have an individual choice today. The power is
smack-dab in your own hands. You can stop sending a chunk of your paycheck to foul our air. You can send it to people who'll clean it.

The tired, traditional, eco-freak solution to this
problem is to rush off and find some bureaucracy big enough to tame ExxonMobil. Forget about that. Austin didn't get rich in the computer industry by suing IBM in federal court for twenty years. Austin gets rich by being direct. You know, like Mike Dell.

So be direct. I'm telling you to cut the
polluter's revenue stream. Put your money into a new, smarter, Texan industry.

We Texans were way ahead of the curve in the global oil industry. We dug up and and sold our oil years ago. Today, we Texans import more oil than we export. That just won't do. We need to move Texas into the next Texan energy industry. A clean, renewable energy industry, with worldwide potential, that makes us money. We've got wind and we've got solar. Solar panels are made of silicon. There are windmills all over Texas.

What we don't have is broad market demand for clean energy. If the demand is there, the clean energy industry will boot up at Internet speed. The tech is workable today, and the demand is up to you, personally. If people in Austin demand this, then presto, demand exists. If Austin wants it, it's trendy by definition.

You sign up for Green energy and you *buy stock in
the new energy companies.* New Economy/New Energy. If
we get enough momentum behind it, it's a self-fulfilling
prophecy. The early adopters will be on the ground floor of a new energy industry. It's a step we have to take. In the years to come, if everyone on Earth burns coal == China, India, the lot of them == we simply won't be able to breathe. But if they all use clean energy, they'll become our customers.

Austin's Green Choice program costs about fifty
bucks a year for the average Austinite. That is the best part: it's the cheapest such program in the USA. It is a nothing-deal to spend or save fifty bucks on a year's power bills. Why would any sane person fret about that? I certainly don't. Each and every year, I put on a big Christmas light-show for my fellow Austinites, here on Cedar around the corner from 37th Street. You may have noticed my house, if you were among those vast Christmas throngs. My house is the only 1912-looking Arts & Crafts home in the city that has a three-kilowatt, city- subsidized, solar generation station on top. It's clean, silent, and it works great! I'm pumping clean energy into your house right now, and you didn't even know it!

You see, I no longer collaborate with smog. I'm no
longer part of the problem. I don't have to make any excuses for the sorry fact that the stars at night are no longer bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

The future is on top of my house, today. The future
is powerful.

Hey, we're neighbors. You want some hard evidence?
Come stand on my sidewalk and look.

Sterling is a science fiction writer who lives in Austin.

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