Opinion: Green Light

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Forward-Thinking Laguna and the Home Electrification Fair

By Tom Osborne

On the evening of May 29, the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), with major help from the City of Laguna Beach, staged the Home Electrification Fair (HEF). The event, held at Rivian’s South Coast Center, made a statement: Laguna Beach, like its bigger sibling Irvine, is forward-thinking, especially when it comes to the climate crisis.  

Our current city manager, mayor, city council, school district, and citizenry attest to this forward-thinking regularly, as does Laguna Art Museum’s “Art & Nature” program. The Laguna Beach Independent may be the county’s only local newspaper with a designated environmental column. Rivian’s tony South Coast Center in the heart of our town enhances Laguna’s environmental credentials even more.  

For me, the clearest, most compelling evocation of this forward environmental thinking is the Laguna 2030 Report (2000), prepared by more than 2,000 community leaders. In the fifty years our family has lived here, I cannot think of a more impressive group of visionary thinkers and doers in our town. Kathy Krinsky, Neil Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth Pearson, Toni Iseman, and other practical dreamers laid out a vision and plan for Laguna’s foreseeable future. The HEF falls totally within that Report’s stated commitment to “weave environmental sustainability throughout the fabric of Laguna Beach life and encourage surrounding communities to do the same.”

The HEF linked environmental sustainability to public health by highlighting the need to swap out our gas appliances for electrical ones as soon as practicable. Featured speaker Peter Marsh, a professional home energy consultant, noted that gas stoves pollute our indoor air with nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, benzene, and carbon monoxide. So what? According to a recent Stanford study, gas stoves are responsible for 12 percent of all childhood asthma cases and other respiratory ailments in the United States. Moreover, he pointed out that induction (electric) ranges boil water faster than gas, are safer in that you can touch without burning yourself, and the heat is more precision-controlled digitally.

Similarly, Marsh explained the superiority of electric vehicles over those with internal combustion engines, heat pumps over gas-powered heaters and air conditioners, and the advantages of electric water heaters over gas-powered ones. After his presentation, Marsh fielded questions from the audience. Next, brief presentations were made, and tables were staffed by representatives from Quit Carbon, OC Goes Solar, Southern California Edison, Switch Is On, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 

The nearly 130 attendees overwhelmingly praised the HEF. City Manager Dave Kiff said, “It was heartening to see so many Lagunans at the Fair (including long-time friends of ours) interested in solar, induction, and other ways to move towards greater electrification and less day-to-day use of fossil fuels. Having the Fair in association with Rivian made it extra special – it was my first time visiting the theater after the renovation, and it’s a perfect space to think about a future where we impact the climate less and less.” 

“I congratulate our local chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby on a very successful and informative Home Electrification Fair,” said Mayor Sue Kempf. “The first such event in Laguna Beach. Now it is time for all of us to step up and electrify our homes.”  

Laguna landscape architect Bob Borthwick and his wife Vicki opined: “We have solar panels on our house and an electric car but had not yet made plans for replacing our water heater or home heating. Your program was very helpful in encouraging us all away from fossil fuels and towards a cleaner planet.

“Former San Juan Capistrano Mayor and CCL leader Larry Kramer declared: “The HEF exceeded my expectations. The speakers were great. The Rivian venue could not have been better. Most of all, I was impressed that Laguna’s mayor spoke and with all the actions the city was taking to address climate change.” 

Other attendees from Aliso Viejo, Laguna Niguel, and San Clemente echoed the views just shared. The event was one more shining moment in Laguna’s efforts to steward the environment and exemplify its forward-thinking, green leadership in Orange County.

Tom Osborne co-leads, with his wife Ginger, the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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