Gussing of the Southwest: Rising to the Challenge and Reaping the Benefits by Brian Skeele

Santa Fe could be the Gussing of the Southwest.  Renewable energy, local jobs, and ecotourism, oh my!

Wood gasifing operation. Today there are 27 decentralized power plants within the Güssing county, all powered by sustainable forest management.

Gussing Austria has become one of the world’s living examples of a renewable energy community. Here’s how a little agricultural town of 4,000 responded 15 years ago. The mayor of Gussing, declared, “We are spending $8 million a year on imported fossil fuels. We can’t afford this! We’re not going to spend any more on fossil fuels for the municipal buildings and fueling the fleet.”

It just so happens…Gussing grows a lot of sunflowers and is set in a wooded region. Some of those assets were converted into biomass heating and biofuels for transportation. The town’s streets were torn up and a district heating system was installed.

Subsequently, 50 companies relocated to Gussing, creating 1,000 jobs. Ecotourists from all over the planet now make a pilgrimage to this backwater, 100 miles from the former Soviet Union.

I believe Santa Fe can put together a comparable response. We can mine our amazing resources of creativity and innovation, and create a showcase – a demonstration site of a sustainable, affordable lifestyle, that doesn’t have a destructive impact on the planet. If we successfully design to the unmet market demand for a sustainable lifestyle, we can revive the construction industry, become an ecotourism destination, and a showcase; a demonstration and resource for the rest of the Southwest.

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