Environmental Directory: 2010 Edition Hits Stands

Austin’s Greenest ‘Yellow Pages’: Seventh Edition Hits Stands

Paul Robbins draws on institutional knowledge to produce a ‘labor of love’

Nora Ankrum, Austin Chronicle, May 21, 2010

This edition, the seventh since the inaugural issue in 1995, took three years to complete and is available for free mainly at the personal expense of founder and Editor Paul Robbins.

In the current edition, Robbins tackles synthetic fuels, electric cars, and the “zero-energy suburb,” all topics that he says people need to understand more closely. “Humans aren’t descended from apes, but lemmings,” says Robbins. “What are they going to do when they run out of oil? They are going to do all these things that no one expects them to do. And one of them is synthetic fuel.” Most “synfuels,” as Robbins calls them in his “Synfuels and Redemption,” produce higher carbon dioxide emissions – up to 172% higher – than conventional petroleum, and they’re becoming more popular. “One of the things that I figured out was that 10% of our liquid fuel is now coming from synfuels,” says Robbins. “That’s a huge amount, and nobody I knew had figured it out yet.”

…”Many people who become activists start with something small like putting in a sidewalk,” he says. “I wanted to stop a nuclear plant.” He was one of the first in Austin to promote the idea that money could be better spent on energy conservation than on power plants, a philosophy now institutionalized at Austin Energy. “Austin began doing energy conservation in 1982,” he says, “and one of the things in my life I’m proud of is that I helped start that program with 20 other people.”