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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: You’ve probably heard about the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global warming. President Bush won’t sign it. But have you heard about the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement? 266 mayors of large and small cities have signed it. The agreement says the mayors will try and meet the Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction targets in their own communities. Sarah Gardner is the Marketplace Sustainability reporter. She reports from Texas.
SARAH GARDNER: Denton, Texas. Population 108,000. It lies about 36 miles north of Dallas on the flat Texas plains. This is George Bush country, for the most part. But that doesn’t mean Denton, Texas dismisses global warming.
PERRY McNEILL: “We have a challenge with a changing environment. You can look at our rivers, you can look at our air and recognize we have a problem.”
Perry McNeill is Denton’s mayor. His city is among those that pledged to try and reduce its greenhouse gases. They’re starting with french fries.
CHARLES FIEDLER: “What’s taking place is they’re offloading a truck that’s been out collecting restaurant grease today. They will take that grease and strain it through a strainer, get the chicken wings and the french fries out of it so we can process it for fuel.”
Charles Fiedler runs the biodiesel project in Denton. Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning diesel commonly made from vegetable oils. Under this public/private partnership, Biodiesel Industries takes methane produced by Denton’s landfill and uses it to power its biodiesel plant. The city then uses the fuel to power its vehicles.
FIEDLER: “The city of Denton has all of their solid waste fleet, all of their heavy equipment are all running on biodiesel at the present time.”
Fiedler says the switch to biodiesel translates into a reduction of more than four tons of pollutants every year.
Denton won’t achieve Kyoto targets on that alone, but it’s brought the city a lot of attention. Even eco-celebrity Darryl Hannah showed up for the plants’s grand opening.
Greg Nickels, the mayor of Seattle, is leading the US mayors’ crusade against global warming. He says smaller cities are ahead on this issue and they’re not just in the blue states.
GREG NICKELS:“It has surprised me that this issue has been portrayed by people as a political issue at all. It really is a matter of self-preservation, and I think more and more, people, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, Coasters or Middle Americans, are wanting our country to step up and be part of the solution.”
Denton is also exploring green building and is pushing for more mass transit to reduce smog in the Dallas area, some of the worst in the country.
Still, some polluting habits are hard to break here. Charles Fiedler chuckles about the guy who brought his used vegetable oil to the biodiesel plant, in a gas guzzler.
FIEDLER: “Pulls up in his brand new, Ford F-250 quad cab with dual wheels on it, pulls out a gallon of oil to have recycled.”
Not exactly a net gain for those Kyoto targets.
FIEDLER:“But at least he was recycling.”
In Denton, Texas, I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.
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