Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Running on diesel

Date: April 16
Mileage: 29.2
April mileage: 355.8
Temperature: 40

My co-worker Brian shot this photo just as we were returning from our respective dinner breaks, about 7 p.m. We had about three inches by the time the sun set, and more slated for tonight. It was a little surreal to watch fluffy piles of new snow shimmer in the 9 p.m. twilight. A collision of seasons. I love it. Anything to lift the landscape out of the monotony of rain, which will surely return tomorrow.

The snow has everyone freaked out right now, and not because there's a few soon-to-melt inches accumulated on the ground. A massive avalanche cut down a series of transmitter towers to Juneau's hydro-power station, and the local utility announced they will be switching to diesel power until they can enter the unstable area and fix the transmitters, likely months. In the meantime, our power rates will be jumping 500 percent. 500 percent! When you look at your monthly power bill for $46.48 and do some simple math, the prospect is downright horrifying.

Meanwhile, I think about those generators pumping out hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel to feed Juneau's electricity appetite. That forms its own surreal image. The idea of water flowing from the mountains and giving us power is vague enough to be beautiful. But to think about Juneau being hooked to a massive, fuel-sucking generator is disheartening enough to make the smallest power uses seem so wasteful ... the things I like and depend on ... my reading lamps, my refrigerator, my computer. I walk around turning off lights and appliances but I feel like I'm throwing water balloons at a forest fire. A raging forest fire. The kind that sets ablaze everything in its path.

In its path like my housemate (and landlord), who is already on the ledge about selling his condo and will probably take the leap. In its path like my employer, who is already on the ledge about expenses, the largest and most easily expendable of which is its workforce. In its path like the local housing market, which will likely go even further to raise already astronomical rents and tighten already insurmountable no-pet policies to coax any of us who might lose the meager roof over our heads back into living at the Mendenhall Lake Campground. These things have a way of changing lives.

But what can I do besides cut tiny threads of my connections to the grid, maybe go to bed early tonight, maybe turn off my computer?