CalPIRG offered up free smoothies to students strolling by the Arbor yesterday as part of an effort to showcase the powers of energy-efficiency and affordability found in the solar-powered blenders that whipped up these fruity concoctions.
By highlighting the abilities of these everyday kitchen appliances, CalPIRG hopes to reach new heights in their ongoing effort for increased environmental sustainability and decreased levels of fossil fuels. At the “solar smoothie” event, the organizers encouraged students to sign petitions requesting State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to support solar legislation. The student-run organization is pursuing a long-term environmental plan that includes the installment of three million solar roofs in California structures by 2020 — a campaign which is backed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
According to Andrea Espinoza, a CalPIRG member and second-year film & media studies major, the group plans to accumulate 400 petitions before presenting Jackson with their proposal.
Chair and Clean Energy Campaign Coordinator Rob Holland, a first-year undeclared major, said CalPIRG has high hopes for the petition since the student lobbying group has been a leader of solar-power advocacy in the past.
“We are giving out free solar-powered smoothies to people, and we are showing people the power of solar energy,” Holland said. “Four years ago, we got thefirst legislation passed for solar energy, which made California the most solar-efficient state in the country.”
In light of ongoing sustainability efforts at UCSB and the general support for green legislation commonly seen in greater Santa Barbara, the group hopes to increase solar-energy use on campus, Holland said.
CalPIRG member Kat Lockwood, a former UC Berkeley student who runs the organization’s internship program, said she and other members are working to ensure that California is increasingly environmentally conscious.Lockwood emphasized the need for com- munity members to pressure local offi- cials to be leaders in carrying the state in this direction.
“We need to show our legislatures that students really support this,” Lockwood said. “Our local elected officials are actu- ally really great on the environment, so this petition isn’t to change their minds. We actually want them to be champions of this bill.”
Generally, CalPIRG strives to utilize the organizing and campaigning power of students to lobby for political interests usually dominated by highly influential interest groups.
“CalPIRG’s mission is to stand up for the public against special interests, so we only work on things where there is some commercial interest blocking what’s best for the public,” Lockwood said. “If it’s an issue most people don’t agree with or if it’s 50/50, we won’t run that campaign. We only run a campaign if the vast majority of people agree with us and if there is only the special interest standing in the way.”
According to Lockwood, CalPIRG’s solar campaign could potentially face opposition from big utility companies that harness great political leverage and thus the ability to block such green legislation.
“We are worried that the drilling companies will try to block this reform … the legislators have already heard a lot from the utility companies,” Lockwood said.
“Some of the largest contributors to the political races in the state are [utility companies] and some of them are very influential. Utility companies actually oppose solar energy because they see it as directly lowering their profits.”
Californians must show politicians the public’s widespread support for solar and clean energy to give policymakers the confidence needed to pass the bill, Lockwood said.
“The majority of Californians — the vast majority — support clean energy development including solar power. So we definitely think that… [we can show] how much public support there is,” Lockwood said. “Our theory is that, in the world of politics, there are special interests with a lot of money and that have a lot of power. But people do have a lot of power to make a difference.”
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of January 16, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.