Red State, Green City

Much debate has surrounded American energy policies, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard sees the big picture.

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By Wesley Cate

A former U.S. Marine and veteran of the first Gulf War, Ballard knows the dangers of American dependency on Middle Eastern oil and has found many cost-saving and green ways to move Hoosiers away from oil.

“Send(ing) (less) money to people who intend to do us harm, It’s more important across the world than you can possibly believe,” Ballard said to a crowd of Citizens Energy employees in Indianapolis.

The Mayor appeared at Citizens to celebrate the company’s new contract with UPS. In the coming years, Citizens Energy will supply the logistics giant with liquefied natural gas to power their Midwest trucks, moving one industrial giant away from the Near East’s dictator-supplied oil.

Ballard knows that Indianapolis can be a model for alternative American energy and has done more than congratulate local businesses on their foray into new energy.

In 2008, Ballard opened the city’s first Office of Sustainability, which oversaw the retrofitting of 61 city buildings, reducing the buildings’ energy consumption by 25 percent in the aggregate; the retrofitting of 500 traffic lights from traditional incandescent light bulbs to LED lights, which are 90 percent more efficient; and the addition of 115 hybrid vehicles to the city fleet, replacing gas burning cars.

In fact, Ballard intends on introducing more non-petroleum-based vehicles to the city’s fleet. In 2012, Ballard announced a plan to have all of Indianapolis’ vehicles, from police cruisers to snowplows, running on non-gas sources by 2025.

“We’re going to work with auto manufacturers to try to get a police car that gets at least 40-50 miles per gallon, if it’s not a plug-in,” Ballard said in an interview with “We get 8-10 miles per gallon now, as do most cities across the nation. If I get 40-50, I save over $6 million a year. That’s a big number.”

Ballard’s practical innovation and forward thinking caught the attention of fellow European innovators. In July of 2013, Paris-based Bolloré Group announced the expansion of their electric car-sharing to Indianapolis, making Indianapolis the only city outside of Paris with the program.

According to Sagamore Senior Fellow John Waters, cars in America spend 95 percent of their time parked. The yet-to-be-named car sharing program will allow Indianapolis residents to have access to an automobile when they need it, not requiring users to pay for maintenance or insurance.

Ballard also has a more comprehensive public transportation system in his sights. Having proven that his Office of Sustainability can save money, he is now looking to bring investment to the city by making Indianapolis a destination for young, environmental savvy individuals.

“There are a lot of prisms you can [use to] look at this [energy policy,”] Ballard said in the same interview. “One of mine is: Are we attracting the young entrepreneurs, the creative class, which is then good for businesses in the city? These younger folks are looking for a sustainable city. They’re looking for cities that have those sorts of amenities in them. They want to see green roofs. They want to see bike lanes. They want to see porous pavement. They want to see the rain garden.”

Ballard’s forward thinking has already been noticed as far away as Europe, but has also been noticed stateside. A 2010 study released by the Rocky Mountain Institute – a Boulder, Co. think tank specializing in sustainability — has pegged Indianapolis as an “aggressive follower” in the realm of Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) readiness. As an “aggressive follower” Indianapolis is recognized as being more PEV ready than Midwest neighbors Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis, who have all been recognized as “fast followers” by the institute.

But Ballard’s motivation for energy choice isn’t based on a desire for recognition; rather, it is based on money saving pragmatism and the safety of our nation. Ballard sees the introduction of new energy as vital for not just getting the United States free from the grip of Middle Eastern despots, but for giving India and China a route to fuel their nations that doesn’t line OPEC’s pockets – thus not funding anti-Western regimes.

“The way I’m trying to position it is that people understand that we can move in this direction–not just because it’s environmental, but because of the national security issues, and frankly just cost efficiency,” Ballard Said. “I want to keep the costs down and be more efficient. I just think that’s a better way of doing things. Saving energy has its own benefits.”

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