THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT ... The City of Palo Alto already enjoys a sterling reputation for its environmental consciousness, including the nationally top-ranked PaloAltoGreen program that allows utilities customers to pay a little extra for renewable energy. This week, the City Council decided to up the ante and pursue the Holy Grail of green energy — an electricity portfolio that would be entirely carbon neutral by 2020. Under the plan, which the council approved by an 8-0 vote (with Pat Burt absent), Utilities Department staff will come back at the end of this year to come up with a plan to reach the carbon-neutral plateau. The city has already made significant strides. Under the current contracts, about a third of the city's annual electricity needs would come from renewable energy by 2020, and about half would come from hydroelectric sources, which are not considered renewable but which are also carbon-free. Thus, more than 80 percent of the city's electricity would already come from carbon-neutral sources by 2020. That, however, isn't good enough, the council decided. In the coming months, the Utilities Department will refine its definition of "carbon neutrality" and survey customers' willingness to pay a little extra to help the city meet its lofty goal. Early analysis shows that the effort could cost the average resident an extra 40 cents to $5.30 per month. City Manager James Keene called the council's approval of the carbon-neutral-portfolio plan a "very exciting moment for the city" "It's great to be in a position where we're way out of the theoretical and talking about the possible," Keene said. Councilman Larry Klein called climate change the "great moral issue of our time" and lamented the fact that only a handful of speakers showed up for the discussion of carbon neutrality. He cited a book review he recently read of "2312" by Kim Stanley Robinson, who considered what the earth might look like 300 years from now. The book refers to the first half of the 20th century as "The Dithering," a title Klein found appealing. "That's what our society has been doing," Klein said. "We've been dithering on this issue." Immediately after the vote, Keene offered his own suggestion. "Can I just assume that embedded in the action by the council was the addition of the Eleventh Commandment, 'Thou Shalt Not Dither?'" No one objected.
MISSING MEMORIES ... About 15 years ago a photo album highlighting the World War II experiences of Sam Webster went missing. He may have left it at one of the local schools where he spoke as a veteran — or somebody may simply have borrowed it and never returned it. The album contains photographs that his wife Kim Webster sent Sam during the war and photographs of a concentration camp that he liberated at the end of the war, along with a letter Sam wrote to Kim saying: "This is what we were fighting for." Sarah Webster Goodwin, Palo Alto High School '71, would love to include the album in her parents' 71st anniversary celebration in June. If you know of the album's whereabouts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.